Thomas Ultican / Tultican
Another editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune attacks teachers and the California public education system. The author has a personal work history of harming California’s public schools by scheming to privatize them. The editorial was written by Rae Belisle. She is identified as a former member of California’s State Board of Education, but she is so much more than that.
Ms. Belise opened her attack,
“Competition for success in the 21st-century economy is increasingly tied to an educated workforce with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills.
“Parents, community and business leaders, and policy makers trying to keep and grow jobs in California should be shocked that in just a few short years California has won the race to the bottom.”
It is true that education is important to the future of any society, however, it is also important that education policy not be driven by a false narrative.
Her first sentence alludes to the widely promoted fraud that there is a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) deficit in the US. There is not and there never was (see evidence here, here, here, here, and here). In fact, many American graduates have a difficult time finding jobs because the H1B visa program makes foreign graduates more attractive. Foreign workers are cheaper and corporations have more control over them.
Belisle echoed the language form employed by the forces for public school privatization. She says we should be SHOCKED at how California’s fourth graders living in poverty have the nation’s lowest scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Her data is correct but the implication is disinformation.
Her clear innuendo is that public schools are failing and bad teachers are a big part of the problem.
In her editorial, she does note, “Over half of California’s K-12 students are in poverty, which makes our academic decline particularly alarming.” She does not mention that in addition to shocking student poverty, California has by far the largest percentage of language learners in the nation. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2015, the national percentage of English language learners was 9.4%. California’s percentage was 22.4% followed by the state with next largest percentage of language learners, Texas at 15.4%.
A fair reading of the 2015 8th grade math data would note that California’s fourth graders are at the bottom of the nation but by the time they get to the eighth grade they have moved up nine places. Those not living in poverty are 30th out of 51 (data includes District of Columbia). In other words, the teachers and the schools are doing their jobs in the face of a 50% poverty rate and having 22.4% of their students learning English.
It did not help that in the 1990’s, Belisle used her position as legal counsel for the State Board of Education to fight bi-lingual education.
Schools cannot fix social conditions. It is political leaders that have failed to successfully address poverty and other social ills. In East Los Angeles, children are joining gangs that their great grandfather was in and we just let that disease fester. Political lawyers like Belisle blame teachers and schools for their failures and those of their paymasters.
Who is Raneene “Rae” Belisle
Belisle’s Bio at the Sacramento County Office of Education says,
“Formerly Chief Counsel to the California State Board of Education for many years, Ms. Belisle successfully defended the constitutionality of charter schools and the STAR test, and was most recently involved in the settlement of the Williams litigation.”
“… she served as Associate General Counsel and Team Leader for Government Relations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Her focus at LAUSD was the implementation of all aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.”
When writing about the privatization of public schools in California, I recounted,
“Three key players in the assault on California’s public schools are Walmart heiress, Carrie Walton Penner, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings and nativist republican politician, Steve Poizner. In 2001, they started EdVoice a lobbying organization that claims California schools are broken and must be reformed. In 2003 Poizner founded the CCSA. Walton Penner and Hastings remain as board members of both EdVoice and CCSA.”
After her stint, as chief counsel for the State Board of Education, she became the CEO of EdVoice. She remained in that position until 2010.
In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to be a member of the State Board of Education. A blogger name Sharon Higgins reported the strong opposition to her appointment.
“She was a full SBE participant for one year until March 2010 when the Senate refused to give her a confirmation hearing. They had received staunch opposition to Belisle. For instance, this was the first time in its 39-year history that the Association of California School Administrators had taken an active stance against a state board appointee, …. Belisle is a strong charter school advocate, who had previously given controversial legal advice to the SBE.”
The California Senate’s Rules Committee decided to let Belisle’s term expire and not hold a confirmation hearing. The California Watch described:
“The opposition came from some of the most influential educational and ethnic groups in the state. Several minority groups said Belisle’s legal advice to the education board during the late 1990s to early 2000s, stripped non-English speaking students of culturally sensitive textbooks and other classroom tools.
“The California Federation of Teachers, California School Board Association and Association of Calfornia School Administrators also questioned Belisle’s objectivity.”
It is fascinating why the Hindu America Foundation opposed her so vigorously. In a legal dispute with the State Board of Education, it appears that in defending the Board, Chief Counsel Belisle tried to bully the Hindus. They conveyed:
- Belisle warned the law firm representing HAF to “watch out” because its client [HAF] had repeatedly threatened and harassed the CDE and SBE staff.
- Belisle claimed that everyone at the SBE was fearful of them [HAF as well as other members of the Hindu American community].
- Belisle repeatedly referred to HAF and members of the Hindu American community as “those people” who were “very dangerous.”
- She made it clear to HAF’s attorney that she considered the Hindu Americans challenging the Board to be religious zealots and extremists.
- During the course of HAF’s litigation, a thorough investigation of the public records was conducted. Not a single threatening letter nor record of threatening or harassing phone calls from HAF or members of the Hindu American community were found.
Belisle’s Main Point
In this editorial, she was advocating against a proposed amendment to California’s education law, AB 1164. On Facebook, EdVoice –her old company– informs us Belisle was right.
AB 1164 seems to be mostly about rules for money saved by districts, but it does have one section about probationary teachers. Belisle wrote,
“If passed, AB 1164 would only allow new teachers with two years of consecutive unsatisfactory ratings — the lowest rating possible — another year in the classroom along with increased job guarantees. Other new staff who may have struggled but showed signs of promise, and earned higher ratings such as needing improvement, would not even be eligible for another year of probation.”
The paragraph of AB 1164 that offends Belisle and EdVoice says:
“Before offering a third complete consecutive school year of employment as a probationary employee to an employee of the county superintendent of schools in a teaching position in schools or classes maintained by the county superintendent of schools requiring certification qualifications, the county superintendent of schools shall provide the probationary employee with written notice that includes, at a minimum, specific information on what performance-related improvements the probationary employee must achieve in order to obtain permanent employment status after the third year of probationary status. The information provided in the written notice shall be based on evaluations or reviews conducted by a permanent employee designated to conduct the evaluations or reviews pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or by a school administrator.”
All this paragraph does is optionally extend the probationary period for one more year. That way the district does not have to discharge a teacher they think has promise while maintaining the option to release the teacher before they earn permanent status.
The California Teacher Association takes a position on all education law. They say very little about AB 1164 other than CTA Supports.
Oddly, Belisle wrote in her editorial:
“Discouraging principals from releasing the least effective adults on probation makes no sense. Why give adults who have already proven they are failing our children an easier path to a guaranteed lifetime job? This will make things harder, especially for our most vulnerable students and the hard-working effective teachers and school leaders who are doing the difficult work every day to improve results in the most challenging classrooms.”
Belisle is a lawyer who is steeped in education law, so, she must have another agenda. This law does none of these things. It gives principals more options and allows them to be more critical of a teachers performance during the probationary period without destroying careers. This law improves professional development and seems to make developing good teachers more likely.
Belisle adds, “Thurmond’s AB 1164 is the embodiment of back-room deals in Sacramento that sell out our children.” She charges Oakland Assembly member Tony Thurmond of some sort of back-room corruption of the worst type, but it is difficult to see his motives. Maybe this is like her charge that the members of the State Board of Education feared Hindus.
There is some sort of agenda here, but it is not clear what it is. Why did a lawyer with a long association with the education privatization movement in California write this article? I do not know. But her associations are clear: Schwarzenegger, Hastings, Walton, EdVoice.
These are not friends of public education unless you include the unaccountable charter school industry as public schools. I don’t. They are privatized schools run by private boards with little or no public scrutiny.
The San Diego Union-Tribune continues to run anti-public-school editorials. Belisle is just another paid mouthpiece for the billionaire agenda to monetize public schools and the paper is a willing megaphone.
Thomas Ultican taught high school physics and mathematics in a school with more the 50 percent English Language and 75 percent Title 1 students. He said, “In 1999, I got tired of doing research in Silicon Valley and decided to teach. It is the hardest job I ever had and I liked it!”