Another school year has started. As an educator, August and
September have traditionally been the time when I set New Year’s
resolutions for the coming academic year. It starts me off on a
positive note to identify my goals, my priorities, and the areas
in which I want to learn and grow.
I think about our work at CFT in much the same way, and just like
when I was teaching, beginning a new school year as an
organization is not just the work of one person. Setting goals
for the CFT is not just the work of leaders or the Executive
Council. Rather it demands real-time feedback from our membership
so that we, as a statewide union, can respond to the issues
members identify as top priorities. To do that important work, we
have undertaken a number of projects to listen to members and
respond to what we have heard.
Yajaira J. Cuapio has been a social worker in the San Francisco Unified School District for eight years. With the pandemic, she says the last couple of years have been challenging.
“Students have been isolated for so long that it’s having an impact on their social skills. They’re arguing and fighting, and it leads to unsafe interactions,” she said. “Then academically there have been disruptions. For one thing, a positive COVID case would cause students to have to quarantine for 10 days, and if they’re out that long, truancy is established.”
The Jefferson Union High School District knew it had a problem holding onto staff. The district was losing about 25% of its certificated and classified employees yearly, and a survey showed that many were leaving the Daly City school district because of the high cost of housing.
California schools have returned to in-person learning, but acute
staff shortages are hobbling the return. The hardest positions to
fill are often special education instructional aides.
For “SpEd IAs,” as they are known from early childhood programs
to post-secondary classrooms, there is no “social distance” with
their students. Assignments may require feeding children,
changing diapers, and handling medical equipment. Emotional
outbursts can also be physically punishing to paraeducators.
COVID didn’t create the national staffing crisis we face, but the pandemic has stretched classified and certificated members so thin that some schools have been forced to shut their doors.
AFT has stepped up to the challenge and created an Education Staffing Crisis Task Force co-chaired by Carl Williams, head of the CFT Council of Classified Employees and an AFT Vice President, and Michael Mulgrew, leader of AFT’s largest local union, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.
This is Heather Molloy’s first year on CFT’s Special Education
Services Committee. She says she feels grateful to be part of it
and thinks in a short period of time, the committee has
accomplished a lot.
Molloy, a high school teacher and member of Oxnard Federation of
Teachers and School Employees, is referring to the EC/TK-12
Council’s Special Education Summit in February where members
wrote a resolution to change the state’s Education Code, which
she thinks desperately needs updating.
After more than a year of Delta and Omicron surges and other
COVID-19 pandemic obstacles, officers of the CFT Council of
Classified Employees embarked on a statewide listening tour of
AFT local unions representing classified employees.
“There will never be a perfect time, so we just hit the road,”
said CCE President Carl Williams. “Our members have heard what we
have to say. Now they want to be heard.”
California schools reopened to a new normal. Classified staff are getting their arms around vaccine mandates and making safety protocols part of their daily routines. And nearly every district, from rural elementaries to urban community colleges, are facing serious labor shortages.
In early August, Luukia Smith, Lacy Barnes, and I ventured up and
down the state on a three week Back-to-School, Forward
Together Tour. We visited with early childhood educators,
TK-12 teachers, classified workers, adult education teachers, and
part-time community college faculty. We witnessed firsthand
students learning in-person. We saw the incredible school
communities our members have helped to build and visited campuses
and classrooms to see CFT members in action.
FIRST PERSON | By Laura L. Manriquez,
Carpinteria Association of the United School Employees
I recently became aware of an opportunity to obtain financial
assistance in earning a teaching credential through the
California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing
Program, which is intended to attract classified staff who are
interested in becoming teachers.
Classified employees took two giant steps forward in Sacramento
during 2016 after the CFT shepherded four bills through the state
Legislature that address staff priorities. Gov. Jerry Brown
signed two of the bills.
AB 2122 appropriates $20 million over five years to
encourage classified employees to return to school and become
teachers. Grants from the California Classified School
Employee Teacher Credentialing Program to districts and
county offices of education will provide up to $4,000 annually to
staff seeking a bachelor’s degree and credential.
The annual budget passed by the state Legislature and signed by
the governor includes an appropriation of $20 million over five
years to fund a CFT co-sponsored piece of legislation known as
the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing
Carlos Howe began working as a security
officer for the Hawthorne School District in 2000, but he wanted
more. After earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice
administration, Howe joined the Santa Monica Police Department.
It wasn’t a good fit.
“My hair was on fire everyday. I had recently married and was a
brand new father, but it was dangerous and I was always gone, so
I switched gears.”
A decade of bashing teachers has left California and the nation
with a dire shortage. Demand for K-12 teachers has increased
while the new teacher supply is at a 12-year low.
Enrollment in California’s teacher preparation programs has
dropped by 76 percent over the last decade, far below what is
needed to fill vacancies, according to Linda Darling-Hammond,
faculty director at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in