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!