We are officially union!

On October 30th, PERB issued their long awaited decision, officially certifying our union here at CAVA. The decision affirmed that CAVA teachers are part of one statewide bargaining unit. Remember, CAVA/K12 Inc. had argued that we should instead be broken into 11 different groups associated with each of the CAVA@ charters? You can read the decision by the PERB administrative law judge here!

Extra Good News

This is historic news! We now look forward to sitting down with CAVA administration to bargain a union contract. In their email alerting our co-workers to this news, administration said they were considering appealing the PERB decision. We think that would be a bad idea. We need to start working together to make changes now. No further delays are acceptable. Rather than expensive appeals we believe our students would be best served by administration working with CAVA teachers to make needed improvements at our school. There is no time to lose!

Next Steps: In the weeks to come we will have a number of opportunities for our CAVA co-workers to weigh in as we prepare for contract negotiations. Whether you supported the union initially or not, your input counts so don’t be shy. We will have surveys, town halls, meetings and other opportunities. Please contact us at cava.organizing.committee@nullgmail.com if you have questions or to find out how you can participate.

K12 Inc. First Quarter Results are Bad: Time for a Change of Course?

GraphAt CAVA, teachers have been saying for years that more resources must be focused in our classrooms. A number of recent academic studies about online charters echo concerns we have raised about the under funding of instruction at our school (we will provide a more detailed summary of these studies in our next newsletter).   We believe our schools could be better if educators input were taken more seriously, instruction was prioritized over administrative tasks, and teacher turnover was actually considered a problem that should be fixed. Unfortunately, K12 Inc.’s priorities have too often focused on shareholder return rather than classroom success. We know that strategy has hurt our classrooms. It appears it has also hurt their bottom line.

K12’s first quarter conference call with investors took place on October 27th with the company reporting losses totaling $12.8 million and a 6.5 percent drop in revenues. Additionally, K12’s stock price continues to plummet, falling 19 percent over the past 12 months. In fact, it is currently at its lowest level in the past five years. This likely isn’t the news investors were hoping to hear as the tech-ed giant kicks off its 2016 fiscal year. Still, analysts are recommending investors hold out and not sell off their shares quite yet, as the company anticipates a slight uptick in its second quarter, projecting profits on operations in the range of $10-$15 million. While the company is far from going under, falling stock prices and declining revenues are contributing to some vulnerability, particularly in an environment in which the public and regulators are becoming increasingly critical of K12’s for-profit model and increasingly aware of the need to ensure for-profit education companies like K12 Inc. are held accountable to the communities and the students they serve.

Faced with these challenges, CAVA and K 12 Inc. will have a choice: improve the quality of education at our schools by making sure a larger portion of our resources are focused in our classrooms or try to send more of our valuable resources out of state to K12 Inc. HQ in Virginia. Obviously, we believe improving our schools by spending more resources in our classrooms is the answer. We’ve been saying that for years and will continue to press for these positive changes. We think it is time CAVA and K 12 Inc. listen to front line teachers who are doing the work, and sit down and work with us to make the necessary changes here at CAVA. Now that our union is certified, we have an opportunity to do that!

First Ever CAVA Union Town Hall Meeting Held

On October 26th the CAVA Union Organizing Committee held its first All Staff Union Meetings at 4pm and 7pm. These meetings were an opportunity for CAVA teachers to learn where we were in our organizing process, share their concerns, ask questions, and have the opportunity to become more involved in the process of improving CAVA.   We had a great turnout at both meetings. The teachers in attendance openly shared their concerns, vision for fixing the problems and asked great questions. For those of you who were unable to attend, below is a recap of the meeting. We have also compiled an FAQ document based on the questions asked during the meeting. You can find the FAQ posted to the union tab in Sharepoint.  Town Hall

The members of the Organizing Committee presenting during the meeting shared that their effort to unionize began in the fall of 2013 with a small group of concerned teachers in Northern California. They reached out to the California Teachers Association for help and after several phone calls and meetings, submitted a petition signed by CAVA teachers in May of 2014 to the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB]. PERB verified that a supermajority of the teachers at CAVA supported unionizing. Rather than recognizing our union, CAVA administration decided to try to delay the process through legal maneuvers including arguing that we should be eleven separate unions (for each CAVA school) rather than one state wide organization. In March a hearing was held at the PERB offices in Glendale. On October 30th PERB ruled in our favor and officially certified our union. We look forward to beginning the process of bargaining our union contract and working with CAVA/K12 Inc. administration improve our school.

Our reasons for organizing are simple, our students, teachers and the people of California deserve better. We want to be sure that the nearly 15,000 students enrolled in CAVA are receiving a high quality education. As teachers we know what is best for our students but historically we have been shut out of the decision making process at CAVA. We want to have more of a voice in the way our school operates as well as the ability to advocate for our students without the fear of reprisal. Furthermore, in recent years there has been a mass exodus of great teachers from CAVA. Low pay, low morale and the lack of job security are causing teachers to seek opportunities elsewhere. By improving CAVA, we can attract and keep great teachers.   That stability will help improve the learning conditions at our school. Finally, millions of dollars in state education funds flow through CAVA to K12 Inc. HQ in Virginia. We want more transparency and accountability from CAVA and K12 Inc. to ensure our students are receiving the resources and support they need.

The concerns shared by other teachers in our Town Hall meetings included the excessive amount of clerical duties, problematic attendance procedures, fear of termination without cause, reprisal for union activities, confusing and contradictory policies and ever changing job responsibilities and expectations. We share these concerns and appreciate our colleagues for being so forthcoming. Before meeting with administration at the bargaining table, we will be surveying the staff on the issues that they feel are most important and focus our negotiations on those issues.

We are already acting like a union. Several members of the organizing committee have acted as peer reps for our colleagues in disciplinary actions and we have sat down at meetings with CAVA administration to discuss concerns. Additionally, in a settlement of one of the Unfair Labor Practices filed by CTA on behalf of a CAVA teacher, it was affirmed that we are protected by EERA rights. In the meeting we covered what EERA entails and how those rights entitle us to form a union without fear of reprisal from administration. We also discussed our union bylaws created by a subcommittee of our Organizing Committee. Our plans for the structure of our union are ready to be put into place so we can get to work on making CAVA great. To share your ideas with us on what issues we should focus on, please fill out the following short survey: http://goo.gl/forms/WgGjApTT6F

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to any of the members of the organizing committee. An easy way to reach us is to e-mail the person who sends you your union newsletter. You can also send an e-mail to cava.organizing.committee@nullgmail.com. Also, be sure to check our website http://cavirtualeducators.org/, our facebook page, California Virtual Educators United and the union tab on Sharepoint for the latest info. We thank you for your continued support!

 

Shareholders or Students? News about K12 Inc.

Another fiscal year has come and gone for K12, Inc., the company that manages our school. The company ended 2015 reporting revenues of $948 million and operating income of $18.4 million. This week, K12 announced its plans to host a conference call at the end of October to discuss its first quarter fiscal year 2016 financials and to elaborate on some slightly lower projected figures affecting the bottom line than it saw last year. Shareholders, potential investors, and market analysts across the country have all set reminders on their calendars to jump on this call. You can jump on the call too, if you go here.Shareholders or Students

There is no shortage of chatter about the long-term viability of K12 as a solid investment. In its 2015 annual report to shareholders, Chairman and CEO Nathaniel Davis describes the key to K12’s success as being a commitment to remaining a leader in online education by executing “a strategy of investing in (its) people, programs and products.” Davis describes just how important investing in its people really is, saying that teachers are “core to K12’s mission” and “one of our greatest assets.” The Chairman of the Board goes on to talk about the company’s multi-year program to improve hiring, compensation, professional development and other critical issues for teachers. He talks about giving teachers a stronger voice and assuring that they are involved in important decisions at K12.

We like these assurances of K12’s commitment to teachers. However we can’t help but notice that it doesn’t feel that way on the ground here in California at CAVA. In fact, it’s interesting the degree to which CAVA and K12 have fought against our efforts to have a voice by unionizing and through the collective bargaining process.   We all know it is important for teachers have a voice so we can better advocate for what our students need.

We believe administration’s opposition is explained in K12 Inc.’s message to shareholders in its public filings (also included in its annual report linked above) which includes an ominous little warning about the dangers of unionization. Essentially, they warn the company might make less money and have less “management flexibility” if teachers unionize. That wouldn’t please shareholders, and this pits our rights against the interests of investors. And, while shareholders wait with bated breath to hear the latest details of the health of their investment, we remain steadfast in calling for a real voice at CAVA. Working together through the collective bargaining process is the best option for making improvements for our colleagues, our students, and the long-term strength of the company. Nothing less will do, and that’s the bottom line.

Correcting the Record: AB 787, Public Resources and the Future of our School

We were surprised to read a recent letter to our CAVA colleagues from CAVA/K12 Inc. administration about AB 787, proposed legislation that would clarify current law prohibiting for-profit corporations from operating charter schools in California.  In the letter, administration implies that the legislation is meant to close down CAVA.  They state: “this bill is seeking to close all charter schools that are supported by for-profit corporations… California Virtual Academies (CAVA) is one of them” (admin letter to CAVA employees, 9/14/2015, emphasis added).  This is simply not true.

 

AB 787 is very specific in what it would accomplish.  It would “prohibit a charter school from operating as, or being operated by, a for-profit corporation.” CAVA is run as a non-profit corporation. There are many charter schools and district schools throughout California that contract with for-profit companies for all kinds of services including textbooks, janitorial services, speech therapists, etc.  CAVA is one of a great number in this category.  Meanwhile there are a much smaller number of schools that appear to be operated by a for-profit, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).  CAVA is not one of those. In fact, CAVA leaders have insisted time and again in hearings and tax filings that they are a not-for-profit.  Given this, why would she try to confuse us?

 

We believe CAVA’s goal is to try to scare our colleagues into signing letters in opposition to AB 787.  K 12 Inc and CAVA administration realize that AB 787 shines a light on schools where public dollars are not being used on students.  The truth is, we have long asserted that too much money leaves our classrooms and goes to K12 Inc. in the form of payment for contracted services.  In fact, a recent blog post on our website speaks to our concern about the redirection of educational resources away from our students.  AB 787 would not shut down CAVA but it would draw attention to K12 Inc.’s role in prioritizing shareholders over students.  We think that is a good thing. But that makes them nervous.  Nervous enough to bend the truth about what AB 787 is about.

 

Let us know if you have any more questions, and contact us if you want to know how to help support AB 787!

Our Union’s Next Steps: 2015-2016 School Year at a Glance

In recent weeks, many questions have come our way about next steps for our union and what CAVA teachers can expect during the 2015-2016 school year.steps

  1. Recognition as a Union: As many of you know, the majority of us CAVA teachers demonstrated our support for our union last year. CAVA administration, with the help of our management company, K 12 Inc., has used legal maneuvers to delay recognizing us as a union. After a lengthy court hearing in front of California’s Public Employment Relations Board, we anticipate a decision any day now.
  2. Approve our Local Union Bylaws: Our Organizing committee is working on finalizing a draft of our union bylaws. These will lay out a democratic process for decisions to be made in our CAVA teacher’s association. We are excited as they will help facilitate participation and decision making by all of our wonderful colleagues. Once the draft is done, and after our union is recognized, they will be presented to our colleagues for review and approval.
  1. Meetings, Surveys, and Input to Inform Bargaining our First Contract: Over the last few years, we have had many conversations, informal surveys, and meetings to gain insights from our smart colleagues about what would make CAVA work better. This Winter, we will begin a more formal meeting and survey process to get input from CAVA teachers concerning their priorities for our union contract. Since we work all over California, we will hold some of our meetings by region and others we will hold via video conference. We will also begin the process of selecting bargaining team representatives, so let us know if you have someone good in mind! Stay tuned!
  1. Community Building Opportunities: Not having a brick and mortar school site means we don’t see each other in the lunch room, at staff meetings, or after work. For us to get to know each other we have to plan activities. We will schedule opportunities this year. A few coming up include local picnics that are being planned. We have also created the CAVA watercooler, a Facebook page meant to provide opportunities for us to get to know each other. Join us!

The Inside Scoop

As teachers, our CAVA colleagues are focused on their students. This does not always leave enough time to explore how important decisions are made at our schools. At times, we are confronted by challenges that raise serious questions about who makes decisions at CAVA and why certain decisions are made. Those moments make us look deeper at our school. Whether it is a complaint by parents about faulty hardware, a new attendance policy, or a restructuring of campuses, many of these challenges force us to investigate how CAVA actually works. This is the first in a series of articles that sheds light on CAVA, K12 Inc., and their impact on CAVA educators and students.scoop

FACTS:

* K12 Inc. is a publicly traded, for-profit company that manages, sells curriculum and technology services to CAVA schools. K12 Inc. also manages schools in 33 States and in 2014 had revenue of $919.6 million and operating income (or profit) of $55.1 million.[i]

* CAVA typically receives the same, per-pupil public funding as most brick and mortar schools in California despite the fact that educators are paid much less than most corresponding districts[ii]

* In the 2012-2013 academic school year CAVA produced over 47 million dollars in revenue for K12 Inc. CAVA paid K12 for management services, technology, curriculum and equipment[iii]

* K 12 Inc.’s executive leadership made over $16,500,000 in compensation in 2014 including over $4.2 million by the CEO[iv]

What is the relationship between CAVA and K12 Inc.? When CAVA parents talk about our school, they often use “K12” and “CAVA” interchangeably. This is not surprising, as it is often difficult to understand who makes decisions. For instance, although CAVA is comprised of a network of schools, our “Head of Schools,” Katrina Abston, is a K12 Inc. employee.

Our investigation into this question led us to a number of conclusions: First, K12 California, a subsidiary of K12 Inc., is CAVA’s primary vendor and is responsible for managing much of CAVA’s operations. In fact, each CAVA location has entered into a nearly identical 10-year agreement with K12 California.[v] This becomes alarming when you realize, according to a recent report, that K12 California is “both the manager of each CAVA board’s school funds and the primary vendor at each CAVA location.”[vi] In other words, it appears that K12 Inc. plays a big role in deciding how our school’s resources are used while contracting with itself.

In recent months, many teachers and parents have raised concerns about the implications of K12 Inc. both managing CAVA and serving as the primary vendor for our school. Since K12 Inc. is a for-profit company, we wonder whether K12 Inc. prioritizes quality education for our students or creating profit for their shareholders. As teachers, we want to do what is best for our students. Unfortunately some of the decisions that are made at our schools about staffing, technology, and compensation, seem to be more closely in line with efforts to cut costs and increase profits.

Our conclusion: K12 Inc. makes many decisions that impact our students and our responsibilities as educators. Those decisions are not always made with the best interests of our students in mind. We need to help make sure more resources are spent in our classrooms, on our students, and to support our colleagues.

Let us know what you think! Also, some interesting Tidbits we want to explore in future articles:

* Why doesn’t CAVA write letters of recommendation for the teachers they value so much?

* Why are we encouraged to try to keep students’ who we know don’t thrive in a virtual setting?

* Why is our relationship with CAVA/K12 not more transparent?

If you haven’t read the report on CAVA by In the Public Interest, you can find it here: http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf

 


[i] http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf page 31

[ii] http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf page 37

[iii] http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf page 32

[iv] http://insiders.morningstar.com/trading/executive-compensation.action?t=LRN

[v] http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf page 31

[vi] http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf footnote 179 (Educational Products and Services Agreement Between California Vitual Academy @ Fresno and K12 California)

Political Potpourri

Welcome to Political Potpourri, your source for legislative and other political updates from your Union Organizing Committee.capitol

 

  • SB 787 – Assemblymember Roger Hernández, a good friend to CAVA educators, wrote this bill so that all public charter schools in California must be run by non-profits. Members of your Union Organizing Committee testified in July before the Senate Education Committee in support of this bill. It has passed the Senate floor and is on its way the Governor’s Desk.

If you are interested in calling/writing the Governor in support of this bill, please let us know!

 

  • AB 465 – Assemblymember Roger Hernández also wrote this bill so it would be illegal for an employment application or contract to force public employees into arbitration and waive their rights to going to the Labor Board or the courts if there is a dispute. Rights can only be waived if they are voluntary and by the employee. This bill has bipartisan support and is on the Governor’s desk for signing.

 

  • Funding – The State Budget (AB 93) has been signed and funding for K-12 schools will be increased by more than $3,000 per student compared to 2011-2012 with Prop 98 funds increasing by $2.7B state-wide in 2015-2016. This is another reason why our Union efforts are so important. K-12 funding is going up significantly, but our wages aren’t.

 

  • Summer School – The Board of Education says that Summer School is considered an extra service, especially since many times it is for students who were deficient during the school year, and it is generally considered to be beyond the scope of the school district’s budget. Therefore, public schools can charge for students to enroll in Summer School. However, it is up to each district to decide if they want to offer Summer School and if they want to charge for it or not.

 

Teacher Spotlight: John Lee

We work with many great educators. Interesting people with fascinating stories. This year, from time to time, we will turn the spotlight on one of our colleagues as a way of getting to know one another. This week, the lucky teacher is John Lee.

“Hi my name is John Lee”

  1. What grade do you teach and how long have you been with CAVA? I currently teach American Government and Economics, and AP American Government and AP Macroeconomics. This is my fifth year with CAVA.

 

  1. What is your background in education? In college, I started off as a computer science major, and after working for a year at Hewlett Packard, I decided that sitting in a cubicle and coding for 8 hours a day was not for me. I started tutoring at a local high school near my college, and found my calling as a teacher. I promptly switched my major to history and knew that I wanted to become a history teacher (but I still earned that minor in computer science! =) I am now rolling into my 11th year as a teacher.

 

  1. What is your favorite part about your job? The thing that I love most about my job is knowing that I am able to make a difference in my student’s lives, and actually see the impact that I have made. I recently was able to teach together with one of my former students. She was a student of mine when I was student teaching the 8th grade at O’Farrell Middle School. Then, after she graduated high school, college, and the credential program (9 years later!!!), we worked a summer program at San Diego State University, called Upward Bound. It is very rewarding know that she pursued teaching solely because of the influence that I had on her life.
  2. What are some of your hobbies?  Anything, and everything! I love sports. I play softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball…basically any sport that involves a ball, a net, or physical activity. I love to snowboard. I have ridden all over the world (USA, Canada, South America, and Europe), but my dream destination to heli-snowboard is New Zealand. Hopefully, I will do that within the next two years.
  3. What’s your favorite movie and/or book and why? My favorite movie is Forrest Gump. I have seen it over 100 times and whenever it is on TV, I always flip to it to see which part it is on. The movie was revolutionary in terms of visual effects, and plot/character development. There’s a reason why it won 6 Academy Awards.
  1. If you were a character on TV why would you be and why? Easy, Superman. Adventures of Superman, Smallville, or Lois and Clark. He fights for truth and justice.
  2. Who do you think would make a good president? Why? (Celebrity or non) Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye. It’s science.
  3. What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen? A meteor shower on the white sand beach of Turks and Caicos.
  4. What is the ultimate dream vacation?  Jumping out of a helicopter on top of a mountain in New Zealand.
  5. What are some of your educational goals? I plan to start a Ph.D. program in the next 5 years.
  6. What’s one thing you are most proud of? I am proud of each and every one of my students who struggle through my class and use the knowledge they acquire for their immediate future.