Questions about charter schools

This letter references an article in the L.A. Times, May 2, “Charter Seekers at Top of Class: 24 High-performing San Fernando Valley Campuses Seek a Change of Status.”

Amazingly, it doesn't appear that these schools (existing schools applying to be charter schools) asked their teachers if they would be interested in changing their contract. Would the teachers like to end “step and column,” where they are insultingly paid as groups, rather than for individual effort and contributions to the school? Would they like to take the cap off the future salary schedule?

Most importantly, are they willing to get rid of layoffs by seniority? When poor-performing, tenured teachers advance students who are badly prepared, the next years' teachers pay the price in extra work to bring those kids up to speed. (La Cañada doesn't have many poor teachers, but why keep those few while periodically laying off some great teachers with lower seniority?)

This change cannot be accomplished through incremental steps. Charter offers a mega-waiver for this and major sections of the Education Code.

When Michelle Rhee was chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools, it took years to get a reform contract to a vote of the teachers. Why? The union prevented it. When the teachers finally got to vote, they voted yes for the reform contract. Here in California, it takes a simple majority of district teachers to accept a reform (charter) contract.

Why aren't teachers tired of the burden and discredit caused by the few poor teachers? I think many are. We haven't asked them here in La Cañada Unified, and it's not clear these L.A. Unified schools asked their teachers either. If the boards and administrators talk to the unions only, they aren't getting the whole story. Please encourage the La Cañada school board to set up a committee to talk to all the stakeholders, including all the teachers. Find out what the teachers and community would want in a reform contract.

For more information on conversion charters, please see my blog at www.cindy
, or contact me at

Cindy Wilcox

La Cañada Flintridge

Editor's note: The writer is a former member of the La Cañada school board.

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