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Fabian Nunez To Work With Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst

moore_1731.jpgFormer Assembly Speaker hopes to mediate with California Teachers

by Brian Leubitz

If you are planning to come to the CDP convention in Sacramento in a couple of weeks, it will be no secret that the teachers are an important constituency within the party. And they are critical for elected officials due to their willingness to fight, and spend, for the causes they consider important. Fabian Nunez knew this as Speaker, and he still knows it. But now he might get a chance to see the other side of labor, as he has agreed to represent Michelle Rhee's "StudentsFirst" organization, a group that focuses on school reform, the extensive use of metrics for teachers, and being something of an opponent to teachers' unions.

In an interview, Nunez, a Democrat who cut his political teeth as a union operative, said he hopes to play the role of mediator for StudentsFirst and labor leaders, though he made it clear that he thought the CTA had abused its clout with lawmakers. He cited the union's successful efforts last year to kill legislation that would have sped the dismissal process for teachers who abused students.

Teachers unions said the bill was an attack on teachers' due-process rights, giving school boards, rather than an administrative judge and two educators, final authority over dismissals.

"When that bill died, I think it gave a lot of people heartache," Nunez said. "I think there are a lot of labor Democrats who are coming to the conclusion that we can't read from the CTA script anymore."(LA Times)

Of course, that bill has become a flashpoint for a lot of so-called reformers, but when it comes down to it, both major teachers unions have worked on negotiating a bill that can work to move potentially abusive teachers out of the classroom quickly while still maintaining a fair process.

But the ills of California education can be plainly spotted by anybody who understands simple arithmetic. We are chronically underfunding our schools. There are only 4 states that spend less per pupil than us, all of which are lower cost states. We are 43rd in educational results, perhaps higher than where we should be given our spending.

Our schools need additional resources, so teachers aren't forced to spend their own money buying supplies for their students and that all students have the tools to be successful. I don't doubt that the former Speaker has the best of intentions for our students, but maybe he can help push for some additional resources while he's at the work of reforming. Our students, and their teachers, deserve better.

Photo credit: Former Speaker Fabian Nunez with Michael Moore, courtesy Randy Bayne

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