Thursday, July 09, 2015



BY LAUREN FOREMAN | The Bakersfield Californian |

COURTESY OF MISTY HIGGINS :: Blue hair in a red county? - Lauri Heffernan, president of the Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association, sported blue hair in April at Old River Elementary School as part of a deal with local teachers. After dstrict negotiations, the union approved a 7 percent raise allocated over two years.

UNION FEES: Wednesday, Jul 8, 2015 1:09 PM  ::  U.S. Supreme Court justices ended their most recent term last week with history-making cases legalizing gay marriage and allowing federal health care subsidies for people who need them.

On their agenda next time around is a controversial case about whether employees represented by labor unions but who are not members of those unions should continue to have to pay union dues — mandatory contributions some have branded as “fair share fees.”

One Bakersfield educator says local unions with skin in the game stand to suffer bruises.

Lauri Heffernan, president of the local Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association, said if the Supreme Court were to do away with fair share fees, unions would have to collect fees from members individually.

Heffernan said the Panama Buena-Vista union has 830 members.

The Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association has more than 1,600 members, according to the Association.

And the Kern High School Teachers Association has about 1,700 members, not including 4 percent of certificated employees that the union represents who are not union members, according to Association data.

Teachers represented by a union work under a contract those unions negotiate for them. That contract spells out working conditions, health care benefits, class sizes and salary.

"Every educator who enjoys the benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should, in fairness, contribute to maintaining that contract," Heffernan said.

More than two dozen Kern County school districts approved contractual raises for educators in 2014.

“This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf,” Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights told The Fresno Bee. “We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation.”

The next Supreme Court term starts in October.

VALLEY COLLEGES NEED MONEY: Legislators who belong to the San Joaquin Valley Legislative Caucus are asking the California State University chancellor to invest more state funding in three San Joaquin Valley universities including Cal State Bakersfield.

The caucus asked CSU Chancellor Timothy White in a letter on Monday to consider how hard hit CSUB, Fresno State and Cal State Stanislaus were during the Great Recession as White develops next year’s budget. That budget includes an added $97 million in state funding, according to the letter.

“As you are aware, the Valley has some of the lowest educational attainment levels in the state, which inhibits economic growth potential and diversification of industries,” legislators wrote. “The result has been some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the nation.”

They added that more money would allow local schools to increase enrollment and make programs more innovative.

“Valley campuses have the capacity to accommodate more students, so they are a clear choice to help CSU meet its enrollment goals, and to help elevate a region that has historically been left behind,” legislators wrote.

The Caucus is made up of Assembly members Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals; Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto; Jim Patterson, R-Fresno; Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; and Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford.

WE THE PEOPLE NEEDS MONEY: California legislators submitted a letter of support Monday to help the Center for Civic Education, the nonprofit that runs the We the People contest, get $17 million in federal grant funding over three years to better educate teachers in civics.

We the People, which models its student competitions after congressional hearings, tests students' knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and their ability to apply democratic principles to current and historical issues.

The Center for Civic Education applied for the federal funding April 11 through the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Effective Educator Development grant program, known as SEED, to better educate teachers and students in civics using We the People as a model.

Terri Richmond, the California state We the People coordinator, said Bakersfield schools have competed in We the People since it first began in 1987.

Kern County students are the most active participants in the program, said Vince Fong, district director to Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

That’s why McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is leading an effort to make sure the nonprofit gets the funding. He and 140 other legislators signed a letter addressed to Education Secretary Arne Duncan Monday in support of the Center for Civic Education application.

Even though in 1796 President George Washington said that educating youth in the science of government should be a primary goal, the program’s proponents wrote, only 50 percent of fourth- and eighth- graders and 28 percent of high school seniors tested at a basic level of proficiency in civics in 2010.

“Teacher expertise has been shown to be one of the most important factors in raising student achievement,” legislators wrote.

Professional development is a central part of how the Center for Civic Education hopes to use the grant money.

As the Legislators state in their letter of support, the Center would use the grant for its James Madison Legacy Project to connect teachers across the nation in person with constitutional scholars to help educators master civics and work with mentor teachers to develop methods to teach the material. The Center would also use SEED funding to develop online interactive videos of constitutional scholars.

STUDENT BRAGS: Two local students earned scholarships in a new program to encourage high school seniors and college students in rural areas to pursue degrees in agriculture.

The philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company sponsored the program known as America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders and gave away more than $500,000 in scholarships this year.

Matt Pandol and Morgan Wonderly, students from Bakersfield, each earned a $1,500 scholarship from America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders

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