Friday, April 11, 2014


William Shakespeare memorably asked "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet."   And, if the C.O.R.E. waiver that FUSD teachers were asked to study back on Feb. 3rd was as sweet-smelling as a rose, we might not care what the C.O.R.E. acronym stands for, or what its actual status where public education is concerned.

But the fact of the matter is, there are things in the C.O.R.E. waiver proposal that don't smell all that sweet to the teaching profession:  longer hours, more days of instruction, the use of standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  

Don't be deceived:  the reason why the district wants these items is because they are near and dear to the heart of Superintendent Michael Hanson. 

This is Mr. Hanson's agenda, and despite what he and other district spokespeople have claimed, the real reason why negotiations have dragged on as long as they have, is because Mr. Hanson is the President of C.O.R.E.  Our superintendent has to get certain concessions from Fresno teachers in order to do the things that his group, the so-called "California Office to Reform Education" said it would do in their application to the federal government.

Well, lots of luck with that, Mr. Hanson, because there is nothing you or any of the other 'C.O.R.E. districts' can do to compel teachers to voluntarily waive their contractual rights.

Ironically, none of the other districts in that C.O.R.E. waiver put the proposed language about the '20/40 schools' into their contracts.   None of the other districts attempted to include student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.   Only Fresno Unified has attempted to do this.   Bit by bit, the waiver has come under attack and the institutions that have promoted it are beginning, to, um, WAVER.   For example:

Long Beach Unified came to a new agreement without getting the C.O.R.E. waiver-promised student tests scores (see Article XII, pg. 3 of the PDF file copy of their agreement in the previous link).

Sacramento City Unified, meanwhile, has announced they will not be participating in the C.O.R.E. waiver next year due to the very vocal opposition of their teachers.   As they announced:

"SCTA, along with many community groups, has been consistently opposed to the NCLB waiver as submitted by our former Superintendent and the California Office to Reform Education with no true input from stakeholders.  While the waiver did bring some flexibility in how the district could spend supplemental education service funds, the cost of the waiver and some of the requirements established within the application were detrimental to our schools and the students they serve. The way the application process was handled by those involved was unacceptable to our members and the community, which is one of the reasons why we have steadfastly opposed the waiver and those behind it......We applaud the district’s decision not to seek a renewal of the waiver and look forward to working with them without this divisive topic hanging over all our conversations."

Following SCTA's example, Oakland Unified teachers have notified their district that they intend to oppose the renewal of the C.O.R.E. waiver, as well.   FTA's return of the C.O.R.E. waiver books is of course 'old news' to our membership, but our Association will now join the Oakland and Sacramento teachers in formally requesting the end of the waiver.

One of the things that makes it easier for teacher's groups to more aggressively oppose the waiver is the criticism that has been brought against C.O.R.E. by the very same federal Department of Education that granted the waiver in the first place. 

Their preliminary evaluation of C.O.R.E. indicates that the organization has largely failed to meet their own target goals and conditions for the waiver's renewal.   A copy of the Department of Education's evaluation of the C.O.R.E. waiver is available here.

So, with support for the C.O.R.E. waiver crumbling, why is Fresno Unified 'doubling down' on some of the waiver-inspired provisions in bargaining?   

For that matter, why was Fresno Unified the only one of the ten C.O.R.E. districts to even attempt to seek waiver-inspired provisions, topics that were subject to bargaining?   I'm not a mind reader, but the fact that FUSD Superintendent Michael Hanson is the President of C.O.R.E. might have something to do with the district's intransigence.   As the outfit's leader, he might be reluctant not to have an outcome that would affirm his ability to lead.

If that's the case, that's just too bad.   Mr. Hanson and the Board have been 'fishing' for nearly a year, asking for 'takebacks' in the contract.   They've failed to capture the interest of FTA leaders or their rank-and-file membership.   If you can't fish, you better cut bait.

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