Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Torrance Teachers Association: Endorsement?

Teachers are some of the hardest working people in our communities.

I submit that they are also some of the most underpaid.

Now, the question then draws to: are teachers unions helping teachers, or helping themselves?

I have spoken with school board members, and some of them comment that the unions are very weak. I have spoken with Republicans who are card-carrying members of local and statewide teachers unions.

They recognize serious problems within the unions, and the necessity to correct those issues.

Other teachers want nothing to do with unions, and resent the agency fees imposed on them, regardless of whether they join or not.

The Torrance Teachers Association submitted a questionnaire for all school board candidates, just like the SEIU, and here are some of the highlights:

  • With the impending retirement of the Baby Boomers and the dwindling numbers of candidates in colleges of education, TTA believes that recruitment of highly effective educators is a priority.  What do you propose the Board of Education do to attract the best and brightest new hires to our district?

  • This question is worth asking. How does a school district get the best staff and personnel?
    • Once highly effective recruits are hired and trained, TTA believes the issue of retention becomes paramount.  TUSD has invested large sums of money toward professional development, so how will you, as a Board of Education member, protect that investment?  How would you work to stop the revolving door effect where your newly trained educators leave TUSD for more security, higher pay, and better working conditions in neighboring districts?
    Professional development is often views as busy work or waste of time for hard-pressed teachers. Who is paying for all of this? What impact does it have on teachers? More importantly, does this information serve students?
    • TTA believes teachers are the professional experts in the classroom, and while we agree administrators share the professional responsibility of educating our students, we believe that administrators should be held to a high level of accountability for supporting teachers and the educational program the way teachers are held accountable for classroom rigor.  If elected, how will you seek out teachers and teacher leaders to ensure that both teachers’ and administrators’ expert voices are heard and given equal consideration before making your Board of Education decisions?  How will you hold district administrators accountable for how they work with faculty, staff, parents, and students in informing their site-based decisions and supporting the learning environment?

    Accountability is good. Accountability of Administration is essential.
    • Academic freedom is defined as the freedom for teachers, working within state education code and standards, to allow students to ask questions and to communicate ideas/facts, even if unpopular, without being targeted for retaliation, censorship, disciplinary action, and/or job loss.  TTA believes in protecting academic freedom to maintain the integrity of the academic environment and promote critical thinking among faculty and students.  What importance, if any, do you place on the concept of academic freedom as it relates to teacher evaluations, curricula, test scores, and the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act).
    Great question. Does the union respect the values among their own members, though?
    • TTA believes that the Board of Education has an obligation to balance the needs of the school district and the needs of the students’ learning environment/teachers’ work environment.  How would you approach collective bargaining in light of the need to reconcile the needs of administrators with the needs of students and teachers?
    What does collective bargaining have to do with the needs of students? Really?! One union president once said: "I will represent students when they start paying dues." Is that mentality still pervasive among union leaders? How does TTA view this concern? I also have to ask: why is there a "balance" needed between the school district and the work environment? What do these questions mean?
    • What, in your view, makes your candidacy for the Board of Education viable?  What are your campaign plans? Why should the Torrance Teachers Association support you?
    Hopefully, every candidate talked about their interests of the children. How about the parents? Why is there no mention of Common Core?

    All in all, these questions are much better than the SEIU questions. There is some focus placed on the students, and leadership does matter.

    A couple of questions worth asking them:

    How do you feel about Common Core?

    How do you want to recoup $109 million from poor lease/lease-back contracts?

    Just asking!

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