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.