California Educator

February 2016

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Page 49 of 59

Keeping It Relevant Keynote speaker Dana Goldstein signs a copy of her book The Teacher Wars at the Issues Conference. T H E C T A I S S U E S C O N F E R E N C E , held in Las Vegas in January, provided the opportunity for some 815 educators from rural, urban and education support professional local chapters to learn, share, strategize and reconnect with colleagues. e theme was "We Are CTA — Strengthening Our Voices rough Advocacy, Organizing and Inspiration," and members heard from CTA President Eric Heins and keynote speaker Dana Goldstein, author of e Teacher Wars, among others. Both spoke on fighting economic and social injus- tice — a critical issue in education today and a core focus of CTA's mission and strategic plan. Goldstein, whose best-selling book chronicles the history of public education in America and why it's such an embattled profession, told the Educator in a recent interview that expectations of teachers are unrealistic. " We expect them to close socioeconomic gaps," she said. "When it turns out that teachers alone can't close gaps as quickly or completely as we hoped, disappointment sets in." She added , " This doesn't mean we can't expect a lot from teachers; for example, it is crucial that teachers work for social justice. But we can't become overly focused on teachers to the exclusion of other solutions. To do so shows a failure of political will and a lack of understanding of the social science and economics of poverty." In his speech, Heins touted Gov. Jerry Brown's pro- posed 2016-17 state budget, which boosts education spending by $5.4 billion and includes specific provi- sions for low-income students. Heins credited Prop. 30, which CTA members supported and worked hard to pass, with supplying much of the needed revenue. "Prop. 30 continues paying back schools for years of devastating cuts — especially those serving our most at-risk students." Heins also spoke about Friedrichs v. CTA and the corporate special interests behind the suit who seek to further erode the rights of workers and their fami- lies. He was optimistic about the future. "Regardless of the outcome, we are going to continue to do what we always do — and that is to work for the students and educators in California." SESSIONS AND STRATEGIES Members attended sessions on current education issues, collaborated with colleagues on local and state- wide projects, and learned various strategies to better advocate for public education. Topics included health care and legal challenges, technology for education and organizing, assessment literacy, and adult bullying. Strategies involved chapter actions such as using the Local Control Accountability Plan as a bargaining tool to help fund school improvement; engaging with the broader community through educator, district and community meetings; and tapping into CTA resources, such as the Instructional Leadership Corps, to improve teaching and curriculum. A preconference session, "e Educator's Guide to 403(b) and 457 Plans," showcased CTA's many resources at and introduced its new Retirement Savings Plan, a CTA-designed and endorsed 403(b) that offers high-quality, low-fee investment options. Many found the conference relevant and useful. "I want to help our reps be more comfortable speaking about current challenges facing our profession," said Laura Grover, Fullerton Elementary Teachers Associ- ation. She attended sessions on school board elections and following the money. "I took a double session on Robert Reich's work with the link between poverty and passing standardized tests. I especially liked the facts and numbers I will be able to report back to my local." CTA's Issues Conference informs and inspires Story and photos by CYNTHIA MENZEL 48

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