May 18 2013

StudentsFirst (again) Distorts Numbers

StudentsFirst has raised tens of millions of dollars on the lie that they, alone, care about students who need to be defended from all the teachers who only care about themselves.

The biggest distortion of their numbers is their claim that they have 1.3 million members.  Many of these ‘members’ are people who are completely opposed to StudentsFirst’s agenda, but have accidentally signed up by clicking on a button on a form that said something like “Click here if you think great teachers should be rewarded!”  When they held a rally in Connecticut earlier this year, only about ten people showed up despite the thousands of ‘members’ they claimed they had there.

The most recent example of StudentsFirst playing with numbers to advance their own agenda was something bizarre I read on their blog by teacher Bhavini Bhakta called ‘A Teacher’s Two Cents’ in which she begins “I’ve been a teacher for 9 years and I had to go through being laid off for 8 of those years.”  This seems a little too extreme to be true.  I’m not sure what her situation was and why she was, supposedly, laid off so often, but I do know that there must be much more to the story.

 

So I did a few seconds of research and found that five months ago Bhavini wrote a similar anti-LIFO article in The Los Angeles Times entitled ‘California’s pink-slip shuffle’.  In this one it says at the end, “Bhavini Bhakta lost teaching positions in four schools over eight years because she lacked seniority.

So which one is it?  Has she been LIFOed eight times or four times?  When StudentsFirst lies so much, they really can’t be trusted.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, I fully support LIFO layoffs.  I believe that layoffs are rarely necessary.  There is so much turnover in teaching anyway that just having a hiring freeze would make most layoffs unnecessary.  I would, however, support something where an experienced teacher who is in her first year teaching in a new district would somehow get credit for her previous years to avoid LIFO layoffs.  Most teachers laid off through LIFO, I think, are true first year teachers and not eight year veterans.

5 Responses

  1. Educator

    I believe what it could be is that some districts give notice of lay-off (also known as a pink slip) by a certain deadline in case state funds don’t come through or if the state ends funding of a certain type of teacher (for example, ending funding for targeted ELL instruction). Then when the district figures out what the state will fund / how much they’ll actually receive in revenue, they re-hire teachers back. Many times the teacher gets the same position back the next year. This is known as being on temporary contract. Other times it’s an actual layoff and the teacher doesn’t get invited back.

    My guess is that she kept receiving the notice of potential lay off for 8 years only to be rehired back each time, or maybe she did get laid off from one district then switched to another, and she had least seniority so she continued getting the lay off notice. Maybe there’s a special funded program that’s at the mercy of state funding. Or maybe her district is arguing each year that state funding might disappear so they pink slip a whole bunch of teachers just in case. (If they don’t pink slip, they must rehire the teacher for the next year, so some districts will be overly conservative and pink slip just in case…which of course causes anger as it leaves teachers wondering for a few months whether they have to find another job, and gives them the opportunity to find a job) Districts will follow LIFO for who gets this lay off notice.

    So based on just that blog post it seems like Students First is advocating that instead of LIFO, districts figure out ways to determine who the not so good teachers are so when it comes time to layoff teachers, they get rid of the bad teachers. This is the policy debate now – how does one figure this out? Principal’s sole decision on who’s good? Student survey? Parent survey? Value added standardized test score? Observation? A bit of everything? I think it’s a fair question to ask.

    What I’ve found funny is that I’ve had conversations with a teacher or two who have had the same sentiment as the Students First blogger, saying “Why don’t we find ways to get rid of the bad teachers?” I stay quiet, because I know that this teacher actually has one of the worst reputations in the building. She would be the one to go if it was up to the principal.

    So I ask myself “Am I the awesome teacher that I think I am, or am I the teacher that everyone else thinks should get the boot but I don’t know it?”

  2. Linda

    More deceptions by Rhee….when isn’t she lying?

    Just days after Rhee spun talking points for Florida legislators, her organization, StudentsFirst found itself in another Florida controversy. The senate sponsor of Parent Trigger legislation, Kelli Stargel, was touting the existence of a petition of supporters that Rhee’s organization had generated. After several attempts by members of the media to get the petition, Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory finally obtained it and contacted people on the list.

    http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/michelle-rhees-pattern-of-deceptive-marketing/

  3. In California, teachers get a notice of possible layoff by 15 March. If you are laid off, you must receive another notice by 15 May (there is a trigger that allows districts to lay off with less notice under certain adverse state budgets, but it’s hard to trigger and at least once the trigger has been overruled by state legislation). Some districts also send out exaggerated numbers of letters in March to trigger rainy day funds; my district does this annually.

    So it would be possible to be laid off and rescinded (or, more likely, to get a March letter but not be laid off in May) many years running. However, this is far more likely for teachers who change districts and lose their seniority or who teach in specially-funded programs (some art teachers in my district have been laid off and rehired six years in a row).

    While her situation is unfortunate, she’s missing the bigger picture: education funding was drastically and brutally cut in California for years on end. Even now with Prop. 30, per-pupil funding is still less than what it was when I started teaching in 2001. Most districts ended K-3 class size reduction, which shrank the teaching ranks. LIFO is not the problem; the problem is the state’s long-term inability to fund education.

    Of course, funding education appropriately in California would require lots of changes Students First’s funders don’t want, like modifying how Prop. 13 impacts business property taxes. So an honest discussion of underlying issues is impossible – it’s easier to blame those lifer union thugs controlling the jobs.

    (As a side note, I am also curious about her credential status. If she entered teaching through an alternative certification program (or Teach for America), she may have been laid off not only because of seniority but because teachers with pre-intern and emergency credentials get laid off first no matter what their seniority. Similarly, some districts lay off intern-credentialed Teach for Americans at the end of their two years without cause; this gets bundled into lay off numbers even if the teachers were planning to leave anyway. Whatever the case, I doubt her story is as clear as she presents it.)

  4. I guess math was never Rhee’s strong suit. She majored in tape.

  5. Also, she wrote her op-ed with the help of Students Matter. That organization is suing LAUSD and Alum Rock EUSD for having LIFO policies. In Alum Rock’s case at least, this is hilarious. Alum Rock is a district in which every school is high-poverty and the overall level of seniority is low (teachers leave for better-funded districts and/or are Teach for Americans). It is also small enough to publish district-wide seniority lists; when I had five years in Alum Rock I had more seniority than over half the teachers in the district. So I’m not clear on why they chose Alum Rock (other than Students First is really active there).

    The lawsuit specifically states that its Alum Rock plaintiff might a district charter school rather than face the terror of a teacher with seniority. Well, the plaintiff is certainly unlikely to find teachers with much experience at the district’s charters, that’s for sure.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
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