What’s Next?

As this school year winds down, we find ourselves busy with classes, grading, graduation, enrollment, administrative tasks, as well as the various responsibilities and challenges of our home lives. In the midst of this chaos, it is important that we begin to think about the improvements at CAVA that will be most important to accomplish in order to make our school the best possible place for skilled teachers to work and for our wide range of students to learn. That is what comes next in our unionizing process.

A Brief History

For years teachers at CAVA have talked informally about the many challenges we face while trying to provide the best possible education to our students. Some of this has taken the form of complaining. Sometimes we tried to change policies through discussions with administration. Often our colleagues just left. Turnover was high and neither complaining nor our efforts to change policies proved successful at fixing the persistent problems our students and faculty faced.

About six months ago, some of us began talking about shifting from informal complaints to positive action. We began identifying specific areas that needed fixing to improve our school. It was about this time that we started to build an organizing committee. We figured the best chance to create positive changes at our school was if it was teacher led. We figured the best way to get the maximum number of our colleagues involved was to build a committee comprised of teachers from both K-8 and the High School, and from regions throughout the state. That way we could make sure to get input from as many teachers as possible.

We started having conversations and decided it made sense to organize a teachers’ union here at CAVA. We talked to our co-workers about building a union and asked for their support and participation. The response was enthusiastically supportive. We quickly built supermajority support for our union amongst our CAVA colleagues. We are proud of the support from all regions of the state, in both K-8 and High School.

Preparing for Bargaining

Last week we filed our union support petitions with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) following the requirements of California state law. PERB will go through a process that will take approximately two months (give or take) to verify our majority support, at which point we look forward to CAVA administration recognizing our union.

While that legal process is unfolding we will take advantage of the time to begin the process of preparing for contract negotiations. There will be many opportunities for our colleagues to participate, provide input, select bargaining team members, and learn about other charter school, virtual school and traditional school union contracts.

It is very important that everyone have an opportunity to give input to our bargaining preparation. This includes those who did not support our majority decision. Everyone’s input is worthwhile. Over this next phase, we will be reaching out to staff to discuss next steps in more detail and create opportunities for everyone to share their valuable experiences.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact one of the organizing committee or email us at cava.organizing.committee@nullgmail.com.

Two More Support Letters from CA Legislators!

These letters from Assembly Member Phillip Ting and Assembly Member Susan Eggman, PhD., represent the fourth and fifth letters of support for our right to organize. We appreciate their support and look forward to administration recognizing our union soon!

Click here to see Assembly Member Eggman’s letter

Click here to see Assembly Member Ting’s letter

K-12 Affiliated Virtual Charter Schools Face Increasing Scrutiny

What does this mean for CAVA?

We work hard every day to teach our students. Unfortunately, some of the decisions made by CAVA and K-12 make it harder to accomplish our goals. Recent developments have heightened this concern. Recently the NCAA rejected course work from twenty-four K-12 affiliated schools. This will unfortunately have an impact on our students. Additionally, a shareholder lawsuit suggesting that K-12 misled investors was recently filed. What do these developments mean for our schools, our jobs, and our students? Part of organizing a union is allowing us to assert that teachers should be a central part of making decisions about how our resources are used, and how our students are taught. When frontline teachers have more of a voice in important decisions many of these problems can be avoided.

If you have thoughts about these articles, please let us know!

What Can Charter Educators Bargain into a Union Contract?

California’s teacher unions were first established under law with the passage of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) in 1976. Under the EERA, we can bargain in three main areas: wages, benefits, and conditions of employment (which include work hours, class size, safety, evaluations, school calendar and more). The EERA also establishes our right to consult with employers on such issues as curriculum and instructional practices.

Thousands of charter school educators throughout California are members of the California Teachers Association. By unionizing we have achieved:

  • A real voice in how funds are used at our schools
  • Improvements to our wages and benefits
  • More prep time and smaller class sizes
  • Wages and benefits we can count on

Charter schools are also covered by the EERA, as they too are public schools. While the scope of bargaining is the same as that of district educators, charter schools are excluded from some key areas of the California Education Code, the laws which govern how schools are run. These exclusions include such areas as probation and continued employment, layoff procedures, and participation in the Cal STRS retirement program. However, educators at charter schools can secure these issues by bargaining them into a union contract.

Because of their unique structure and programs, union contracts at charter schools differ greatly from district contracts. While a large district such as San Diego or Fresno may bargain a contract that is hundreds of pages in order to cover all the issues and job categories, most charter school contracts are just 20 to 40 pages long. Some charter schools include language about participating in school governance or the budget process. Others include unique issues such as flexible schedules, intellectual property or specific roles for teachers in curriculum development. Every union contract is based on the needs and priorities established by union members.

 

We Are On Our Way!

We are thrilled to announce that we have officially filed for union recognition!  That means we have delivered the appropriate legal documents to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and formally notified CAVA administration that we are unionizing.  We have also provided our proof of majority support to PERB (administration does not see those!)

In the weeks ahead, we will begin the process of preparing for contract negotiations.  Though formal bargaining will not begin until after we are officially recognized as a union, there is a lot of preparation we can do now!   Please start thinking about the most important improvements that will help make CAVA a better place to teach and learn.  Also, if you would like to be involved in the negotiations or have suggestions please contact us.

Thank you for your continued support! We will keep everyone in the loop as we move through the process.

More Support!

The support letters from California State Legislators continue to roll in!  This one is from Assembly Member Das Williams from California’s 37th State Assembly District.  He supports our legally protected right to unionize and calls on CAVA administration to do the same.  Also, as a former Governance Board member of a union charter school, Assembly Member Williams knows that charter schools benefit from an organized teacher workforce!  Check it out!

Click here to view the letter

Thank You, Teachers!

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” – Carl Jung

As teacher appreciation week draws to an end, please take a minute to reflect on your impact in the lives of our CAVA students. As virtual educators we face unique challenges in trying to reach our students. We don’t get to see the look of satisfaction in their eyes when a difficult concept is suddenly made clear on a daily basis, but we do get smiley face emoticons and exuberant bursts of “I get it!” in the chat box. This week our desks aren’t overflowing with tokens of appreciation like those of our brick and mortar colleagues, but we have thoughtful e-mails, texts and Facebook posts from our Learning Coaches and students thanking us for our support.

Being a teacher is never an easy job and in times like these when we are overwhelmed with administrative tasks and morale is low it is even more arduous. But we must continue to provide our students with the warmth they need to grow, and we will, because we are teachers, and that’s what we do.

The Truth About Our Union–CTA

Recently CAVA teachers received e-mails from Katrina Abston, CAVA’s Head of School, urging us to not sign the petition to organize. She warned of “lies” and “tricks” that the union would use to get teachers to sign so that CTA could start collecting dues. Though Ms. Abston’s matriarchal tone and cautions would suggest that she is simply watching out for us and wants to protect us from the big, bad union thugs, her e-mails contain a number of “untruths”.

In her first letter to the staff, Ms. Abston advised teachers that in addition to dues there would also be “fees and assessments”. Yes, there will be dues, no one is disputing that. The FAQ sent out by the organizing committee and posted on this website clearly states that. Member dues are what allow CTA to work for us. Unlike K12, CTA is a non-profit organization. CTA uses dues money to advance and protect the profession and the integrity of public education. Currently the expenses incurred by our organizing committee are being taken care of by CTA through dues paid by other members of the organization. Our fellow California teachers are supporting us in our effort to organize. As for the additional “fees and assessments” that is simply not true. There will be no financial cost to union members beyond the monthly dues.

In the same letter Ms. Abston states that “we are all better off without a union getting in the way of our progress, programs, and services to students.” The implication is that CTA is a third party that will come in, take over and tell us what to do. This is also untrue. The union is not a third party, yet another boss we need to contend with, the union is us. It is CAVA teachers who are united to have a say in our students’ education, in the decisions that affect us as professionals, and in the direction of our school’s future. Currently CAVA teachers are leaving in droves. The teachers who have stayed are frustrated and unhappy. Things need to change. The CAVA organizing committee, with the support of CTA, wants to help make CAVA a place where people want to work again.

Finally, in her most recent e-mail, Mrs. Abston claims that CTA is only involved to collect dues. That the association is against charter schools and therefore does not have a genuine interest in supporting us. Please see the link below to the CTA website and CTA’s position on charter schools.

http://www.cta.org/Issues-and-Action/Education-Reform/Charter-Schools.aspx

CTA is not against charter schools but feels that, “All charter school employees should be organized to ensure both quality education for students and professional rights for school employees.”

Currently CAVA teachers have no say in any decision regarding changes in the school. Becoming a union and a part of the CTA unites us not only within CAVA but with 325,000 educators across the state. Had we, the employees of CAVA, been satisfied with the terms and conditions of our employment, and the conditions of teaching and learning, there would have been no impetus to organize to improve those. Management has pressed us and de-professionalized much of what we do, and this effort is an expected and logical result. It has been conducted in an honorable, above-board way by passionate and skilled leaders who have the best interests of their students and colleagues in mind, not profits.

Should you have questions or concerns, please reach out to a member of the organizing committee or use the e-mail address listed at the bottom of the home page of this website.

The CAVA organizing committee and CTA are here to support you!

Update and More Support

We are happy to report that support for our union amongst CAVA educators continues to grow across the state. Over the last few days, we’ve been getting lots of calls and emails offering help and asking about next steps.  The best thing you can do now (besides signing the union support petition if you have not already) is make sure we have your personal email address so we can include you in our email newsletter distribution.

As for updates…

Recently we’ve reached out to a number of California State Legislators to tell them about our decision to form a union here at CAVA.  As a public school it makes sense to keep our elected California officials informed about what is happening. Many of the elected officials we have talked to have decided to write letters of support to CAVA administration reminding them of our legally protected right to organize a union.  We appreciate the support of our CA elected representatives and plan to keep them updated as our effort continues.

Check out the first of those letters, from Assembly Member Roger Hernandez, below.  As always, if you have any thoughts, suggestions or questions, contact us here or reach out to one of your CAVA organizing committee members.