Academia

Classroom Control

Teachers' power grab

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Teacher pay, working conditions, and benefits apparently aren't enough to keep the California Teachers Association busy. It wants to negotiate over everything that takes place in the classroom, setting curriculum standards, developing policies of parental involvement, and selecting textbooks at the bargaining table. California state assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) is sponsoring a bill that would give the union a say in all these areas.

The union says it needs expanded authority to control classroom details because its members are being held accountable for classroom performance. "There's been a tremendous emphasis put on accountability, holding teachers accountable for what's happening and for test scores," union President Wayne Johnson told Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub. "Because we can only bargain over wages, hours and working conditions, we are being held accountable in a system over which we have absolutely no control."

Not exactly, as the state legislature prohibits the use of student test scores to assess individual teachers. There is one group that would lose control if the bill passes: parents. Union negotiations take place behind closed doors, and there's no room at the table for parents. Johnson told the Bee that parents might be consulted outside of official negotiations "if they have some qualifications."

The proposal seems so over the top that it has the whiff of a hoax. Johnson "swears he's serious," reports Weintraub, "that he has been thinking about this for 20 years." Goldberg's office confirms it is carrying the bill.