Grand jury finds ‘seemingly insurmountable hurdles’ facing Oakland schools

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OAKLAND – A local grand jury has found “seemingly insurmountable hurdles” facing the Oakland Unified School District, and many of them are a result of collective bargaining and the teachers union’s persistent effort to reject necessary reforms.

hurdlesIt found that “the Oakland Unified School District has many problems, including high teacher turnover, low teacher pay, teacher assignment issues, an ineffective and cumbersome teacher evaluation system, contractual issues and a strained relationship with the Oakland Education Association,” according to OaklandLocal.com.

The site noted some of the grand jury’s many findings, which we report below verbatim:

OUSD’s current staffing rules disregard quality or fit when assigning a teacher because seniority takes precedence, leaving less desirable schools with the loss of experienced teachers and little consistency or continuity resulting in morale issues for staff, students and parents.

Administrative efforts by the district to improve schools—through Mutual Matching, Advisory Matching and Teacher on Special Assignment—were rejected by the Oakland Education Association because these efforts went against OEA’s core belief that seniority should prevail in teacher placement.

The current teacher evaluation process is cumbersome and ineffective. Budget constraints and staffing reductions have affected some principals’ abilities to complete evaluations.

There is no centralized database to track evaluations and other personnel information.

One recommendation is that the school district should work with the union to develop a system for teaching assignments that is not based solely on seniority. Another said the district should streamline its evaluation process – “in conjunction” with the union.

The grand jury obviously put its finger on some significant problems in this troubled district, but some of its suggested remedies completely miss the mark.

The unions insist that seniority be the key factor in teacher assignments. They’re not going to change their minds. States that have made seniority a secondary consideration did so without the consent of teachers unions.

The unions insist on teacher evaluations that ignore a teacher’s ability to help student learn. States that have imposed evaluation systems based on performance did so without the consent of teachers unions.

The union is the source of the problem in many of these instances, and the grand jury is fooling itself if it believes the union will suddenly agree to be part of the solution.

The Oakland teachers union looks out for the interests of its members and its left-wing political agenda. It has little interest in what’s best for students.

California’s traditional public schools will not significantly improve until the state passes a law similar to Wisconsin’s Act 10, significantly curtailing the collective bargaining power of teachers unions.

Until such a law is passed, student success will continue to be a secondary consideration in the operation of public schools.

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