One of the most bizarre dynamics of California’s current politics is the fact that two of the strongest factions of the Democratic coalition should be at each other’s throats, not working together to advance party causes.
I refer to Latinos, who understand the need for big changes in schools, and the teachers unions, who define education “reform” as being more money for a broken status quo and who will fight to the bitter end for rules that allow teachers to leave struggling urban schools for placid suburban schools as soon as their seniority allows them to do so. Nothing undermines California Democrats’ claims to be for “social justice” more than their support of the teachers unions’ agenda.
One Latino Democratic lawmaker who understood this was former state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who for her candor was labelled “dangerous” by the CTA when she ran last year for state superintendent of public instruction. (Here’s some good background on the CTA, Romero and how education policy/politics works in Sacramento.)
Romero, no surprise, was defeated thanks to the CTA’s muscle, and its preferred candidate, Tom Torlakson, won. Torlakson, no surprise, is now sandbagging reform.
Now another Los Angeles Democrat, Felipe Fuentes, is following in Romero’s footsteps:
A poll released last week by USC and the LA Times tells us that the public approves of measuring teacher effectiveness through a combination of indicators including the academic growth of their students. The U.S. Department of Education has made measuring and improving teaching effectiveness a fundamental component of its reform efforts and requires it for many of its grant recipients. In California, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes has introduced AB 5, legislation requiring school districts to use multiple measures to determine teaching effectiveness, and a group of education reform advocates is suing LAUSD to require the district to develop meaningful evaluations of teacher effectiveness.
All of which brings us to yet another Los Angeles Democrat, Assembly Speaker John Perez: When will he get around to explaining to his constituents in East L.A., Huntington Park and Vernon why he sides with the CTA over the interests of their kids? When will he offer up a real education reform agenda, as has, on occasion, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg? Does he like being the enforcer for the education status quo, even if it means pushing through crazy legislation such as AB 114? When will the Sacramento media ever focus on the tension between the Romero/Fuentes camp and the CTA/CFT forces in deciding the course of California Democrats?
Good questions all.