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CTA COULD BE BIG LOSER IN FIGHT OVER DUES.

Byline: JILL STEWART

FOR the first time since the war over bilingual education in the 1990s, some teachers are prominently challenging the California Teachers Association as it spends tens of millions of dollars to defeat Propositions 74 and 75 and other reforms backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I still expect a majority of California's roughly 325,000 teachers to side with the CTA on Election Day. Many are in political lockstep with the CTA, while others are too afraid of getting the cold shoulder in the teachers lounge.

Yet recently, a group of California teachers joined a lawsuit against the CTA after powerful union insiders voted to charge teachers $180 in extra dues - without a vote by teachers - to fight Arnold. Meanwhile, two teachers signed a mass e-mail that hit the CTA for spending $50 million in dues on pure politics.

Proposition 74 requires that a teacher have five years of classroom experience instead of two before earning lifetime tenure. Proposition 75 requires government unions like the CTA to get written permission to use members' dues on its political views.

The measures are actually deeply intertwined. Proposition 74 is a long-overdue reform which the CTA is spending millions to sink; Proposition 75 would require the CTA to ask teachers if it's OK to spend their millions to sink such reforms.

Teachers might finally be paying attention. When the two teachers signed a pro-Proposition 75 e-mail to 95,000 teachers, only 50 teachers demanded to be taken off the e-mail list.

Currently, teachers can ``opt out'' of paying dues that go to political efforts they oppose. But teachers generally lose their union vote - a raw deal.

Kirk McMorrison, a math teacher at Sheldon High School in Elk Grove, says of Proposition 75, ``My dues are $74.30 a month. It's listed as a 'voluntary deduction' (chuckles). That is how it is actually listed on my paycheck! If it's voluntary, then let me stop.''

Where does teachers' money go? To ludicrous political campaigns. Eric Beach of Yes on 75 notes that the CTA used teachers' dues to support last year's failed measure ``to roll back 'three strikes and you're out.'' How does such a measure help children in the classroom??

It doesn't.

The CTA poured money into the $14 million campaign in 2004 for Proposition 56 - a nutty plan rejected by voters to make it easier for our beloved Legislature to raise taxes on us all. The CTA spent millions fighting to save Gray Davis from recall.

Worst of all, the CTA adopts hard-core, anti-education positions that, if the CTA had won, would have dramatically increased the speed at which our schools are circling the drain. The CTA stridently fought the badly needed English-immersion law approved by voters, for example, and it's fought to undercut the respected and growing charter school movement.

Naturally, the CTA wants to hand lifetime job tenure to very green teachers with two years of experience. It fits their ossified strategy of fighting progress no matter how much it hurts kids.

I hope Kerr is apoplectic over the EdSource study, released by the nonprofit, independent education research organization on Tuesday, which identified a handful of key ingredients used by turnaround schools in California - tough, poverty-dominated schools that are beginning to succeed against all odds.

The study shows that these schools, which were in terrible shape a few years ago, enjoyed major success after 1. very rigorously following California's strict state academic standards and 2. hiring teachers with at least five years of classroom teaching experience.

Patty Armanini, a teacher in the Ross Valley School District in Marin County, who telephoned the governor's team to volunteer, has observed inexperienced or disinterested teachers with lifetime tenure ``take the students down with them, just like a bad doctor takes down his patients by not treating them.''

In California it takes ``three to four grueling years'' for a school to fire an incompetent teacher, she says. ``Multiply those three to four years by the 20 students that teacher harms each year. People just don't understand we are supposed to be helping students, but teachers who do this are hurting them.''

She says her union dues ``are definitely not working for me.'' If voters agree, the CTA, which has suffered many costly defeats using other peoples' money, may be in for its costliest defeat ever.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 30, 2005
Words:722
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