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Jewish Journal

Teachers Unions, Funding for Education and Honesty

by  David A. Lehrer

August 27, 2010 | 4:45 pm

The LA Times ran a modest item this week reporting that California had lost its bid for a federal Race to the Top

education grant. As Howard Blume of the Times noted, California stood to receive as much as $700 million in federal monies—-Los Angeles Unified alone stood to receive $120 million.

What the Times didn’t fully explore, and after its recent battle with Los Angeles Unified’s union, UTLA, one can understand why; is the role that the UTLA and several of its colleague unions in California played in

insuring that California didn’t receive the federal funds

.

If one goes to the US Department of Education’s website and reads the assessment of the California application, it becomes transparently clear that the dysfunction in our state, where teachers’ unions can virtually veto any reform effort, was obvious to the government’s reviewers. Despite the state’s education leaders’ best efforts to convince the feds that needed reforms had been implemented and the “reform agenda was comprehensive and coherent.” The glaring refusal of two thirds of the state’s teachers’ union leaders to sign on to the Memorandum of Understanding regarding reform was too much for the feds to ignore.

Indeed, as a reviewer wrote,

the state’s inability to garner support for the reform agenda from less than 20% of the LEA’s and only union support in 33% of the participating districts may signal programmatic or collaboration obstacles that may prevent the state from achieving its proposed reforms. The number of points awarded to this section is due to the concern that the number of participating LEAs and the limited number of union leaders that signed the MOU may indicate insufficient commitment to attain the designated reforms.

In the section of the grant proposal where the comments regarding the non-participation of the unions in reform efforts were cited,

California’s proposal received only 100 out of a possible 125 points

. That loss of 25 points (out of the total of 423 points for all the sections of the proposal) was more than the 17.8 points that stood between our 16th position with zero dollars and the tenth position held by Ohio which received its requested amount of $400 million.

Clearly, the collective decision of many of the state’s teachers’ unions to not participate in the

Race to the Top

proposal ended up costing the taxpayers of California 700 million dollars. Seemingly not a big deal to the unions’ bigwigs, one of whom described the $700 million earlier this year as, “peanuts.”

Next time UTLA’s A.J Duffy or California Federation of Teachers’ president Marty Hittelman protest the cuts in education funding emanating from Sacramento, let’s ask them to first find the missing $700 million of “peanuts,” maybe they’ll know where they are. And the next time they tell us how concerned they are about the education of our kids, we can ask them why they turned away $700 million because they didn’t like the reforms and accountability that might have inconvenienced them but would have changed countless lives of young Californians. Clearly, kids aren’t number one on their agenda.

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