24 Jul 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
California’s teachers’ unions are seeing how far they can go to quash the state’s burgeoning charter-school movement now that Democrats have stronger legislative supermajorities and after a pro-charter-school governor has been replaced by one whose support for such schools is more wobbly. Some anti-charter bills have fallen by the wayside this session, but there’s one troubling measure that’s still moving through the Legislature.
Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, is the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee and one of the California Teachers’ Association’s strongest allies. He authored Assembly Bill 1505, which would have originally required all charter-school teachers to have a state teaching credential. The bill has been softened to require a state background check, but there’s no question that teachers’ unions are pushing hard in the certification direction.
“We’re in a situation where the charters are arguing that, one, they don’t need a trained teacher in the classroom and then, two, that teacher doesn’t need to have an adequate background check,” O’Donnell told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Merely requiring a background check is fine, but we strongly dispute the union notion that having a credential is a hallmark of teacher quality.
Charter schools have succeeded in ways that have eluded many public schools, especially those in low-income areas, because they have given administrators needed flexibility. Traditional public schools are hobbled by work rules that make it nearly impossible to get rid of poor-performing teachers and which artificially limit the pool of skilled teachers.
California law requires a teacher certification, but allows charters to hire non-credentialed teachers in “non-core” subjects. The state has a teacher shortage largely because the credentialing process is so time-consuming and costly. The process can take more than five years. This exemption not only helps schools fill teaching slots, but enables people who are experienced in their fields to decide to serve as teachers – similar to what colleges and universities do.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section”]Quality teaching is not the result of completing education courses. It centers on a person’s ability to inspire and motivate. One charter-school official noted to the Union-Tribune that former Gov. Jerry Brown would not be allowed to teach government under current credentialing rules. Likewise, an experienced newspaper editor can’t teach English and a skilled physicist can’t teach science unless they go through a Byzantine process. That’s wrong.
If parents don’t like the education offered at charters, they can take their children – and state funding – elsewhere. Such market forces are the key to assuring that any organization does a good job. Education schools have long been criticized for focusing on arcane educational theory at the expense of real-world teaching. Many excellent potential teachers – especially those in math and science – would like to teach, but don’t want to spend years going through that mind-numbing process.
This focus on background checks is largely bogus. Take a look at the disciplinary process in the traditional public schools, where it can take months or even years to complete a teacher-misconduct case. This system is designed to protect teachers – not to assure that students have the best-possible educational experience.
Instead of trying to make charter schools more like the state’s struggling public schools, lawmakers should pitch reforms to help traditional schools emulate the outcome-based, market-driven successes of charters. Assembly Bill 1505 goes in the wrong direction.