California Educator

March 2016

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president's message A T T H E CTA Issues Conference earlier this year, I had the plea- sure of meeting and listening to journalist Dana Goldstein, author of e Teacher Wars and keynote speaker for the event. Her book and her remarks at the conference paint a portrait of the teaching profession — how we got to where we are today and how, in many ways, things in education have not changed. Listening to Goldstein, I was reminded that our profession's history is a reflection of America's own social history. ere have been numerous opposing forces at work in this country from the very beginning. Our political history has never been with- out struggle. It's a lesson for all of us, especially in this rather interesting election season. I've been thinking a lot about her talk since the conference, and how the growth of our profession and our union coincided with the growth of the women's rights and equal rights move- ment during the first half of the 20th century. Goldstein uses Chicago in 1900 as an example. At the turn of that century, 97 percent of the teachers in Chicago were women. So-called school reformers at that time attempted to lower female teachers' pay in order to pay male teachers more. at's right, instead of raising salaries for everyone, they wanted to punish women by lowering their salaries. Women were teaching as many as 60 students to a classroom, many of them speaking Czech, Italian and Polish. ese were women who could be fired from their jobs for getting married, or for opposing IQ tests of students and the use of those tests to track their students into vocational or academic programs. Does that sound familiar? Women had already begun to make factory-level wages and were told by the school reformers they should be happy with that. But women weren't happy with that. ey were angry, and they organized. ey demanded higher pay as well as the right to vote. Teachers' organizing efforts and the suffrage movement had a lot in common. Gains have been made in the years since. Teachers' salaries have increased, working conditions have improved, and our retirement is more secure, all because of those remarkable women who organized more than 100 years ago. Yet the need for a unionized teaching profession has not gone away. e median salary for a teacher in the United States today is $52,000 a year, much lower than the $77,000 median salary for a dental hygien- ist. We remain under attack by education reformers who want to privatize and profit from schools. I doubt you are surprised that the teaching force in America remains 75 percent female. I wonder if there is still inherent sexism in our country that attempts to devalue our profession because it is still largely composed of women. As we march into Women's History Month, I'd like for all of us to remember teachers' contribution to the women's rights movement and our continuing commitment to it. e mission of the California Teachers Association, our union, remains a commitment to advance quality public education, protect human dignity, and secure a more just and equitable society. We must continue that cause. We must stand up for our stu- dents and stand up to education "reformers" who would see our voice weakened. We must continue to strengthen our profession by reaching out to colleagues, parents, families and our commu- nities to make our union stronger, more inclusive, more diverse. Right now, we are seeing an influx of new teachers into the profession, most of them millennials — hence the focus of this month's magazine. Many of our new teachers are not familiar with our history and the continuing need for a unionized teach- ing profession. But they do want the same things we all want — a quality education for all students, a well-supported public education system, adequate salaries and benefits, professional development and support, and a say in our profession. We have an opportunity to reach out to our new colleagues and bring them and their voice into the union. I'm asking you to remember what it was like at the beginning of your teaching career, and to think about how you can help a new generation. ink about that new teacher, bus driver, or paraprofessional in your school. at person is now part of the CTA family — and a new union member. Extend a hand, share some best prac- tices, invite them for a coffee, organize a social gathering. Just let them know you are there for them, and so is this union — as we have been for more than 150 years. Eric C. Heins C T A P R E S I D E N T @ericheins Dana Goldstein signs copies of her book The Teacher Wars at CTA's Issues Conference. Committed to Equal Rights 5 March 2016

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