Soon, a Whole Month to Subject California Students to Union Propaganda in the Classroom

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It’s not enough in California that every day is Earth Day. Now a state legislator has introduced a bill that expands the official time period from a week to a month for unions to introduce their own propaganda to students through California public school classrooms.

Introduced on February 24, 2012 and amended on March 20, 2012 by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland), Assembly Bill 2269 replaces the current designation of the first week of April as “Labor History Week” with the entire month of May as “Labor History Month” in California schools. This bill will enshrine in state law a 31-day special period for school districts to gather around the May pole for ”appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role that the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.”

When the Assembly Education Committee approved AB 2269 on April 11, 2012 with a 6-2 vote (three committee members did not vote), no entity or individual had submitted opposition to the bill. Now there is a lonely opponent: Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and the Dayton Public Policy Institute, representing its own interest in the matter. Here is my five-page letter providing a comprehensive argument against the bill and the concept of official state-designated Labor History commemorations in California public schools:

Dayton Letter Opposed to Assembly Bill 2269 – Labor History Month

I’m not surprised this bill isn’t getting much attention outside of California’s union leadership (and perhaps the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education). Who would know about the plot behind such a proposal? Only a few articles over the past 17 years have critically examined the contemporary movement to impose labor history in the government school curriculum. One of those articles is my own, published in 2003 in the journal Government Union Review (Volume 21, Number 1):

Labor History in Public Schools: Unions Get ‘Em While They’re Young

News media coverage has been minimal, although the Sacramento Bee reported briefly on AB 2269 when it was introduced, and the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register even had a smaller snippet:

The Buzz: It’s Labor History Week, Er, Month – Sacramento Bee – March 23, 2012

Schools: Students Busy During Spring Break – Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register – April 1, 2012

Historical Background on the Union Campaign to Mandate Labor History in California Public School Classrooms

I learned in 2002 that the California Federation of Teachers’ Labor in the Schools Committee had a plan to implement a labor history program as part of the California History Social-Sciences curriculum, using teachers’ union locals and an anticipated recommendation from a future California History-Social Science advisory committee to “allow the more rapid dispersion of the curriculum throughout the state’s school districts.” I began warning legislators and interest groups to be on the lookout for related legislative and regulatory proposals.

Labor History Week was the first strike. It was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002 as Assembly Bill 1900.

As originally drafted, AB 1900 provided $150,000 from the state’s General Fund to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to distribute to school districts so they could buy labor history instructional materials. A huge state budget deficit at that time (some things in California never change!) helped lead to the demise of this provision. Anyone vaguely familiar with how the California State Legislature operates will guess correctly that union activists had already developed and published the labor history instructional materials.

That bill was the only success among several bills sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and other unions during the next few years to force labor history into California classrooms. In 2003, the California legislature considered but did not pass Assembly Bill 581, which would have required the California State Department of Education to consider a labor relations curriculum in its next determination of the state’s History-Social Science curriculum framework and accompanying instructional materials. The legislature also considered but not did pass Assembly Bill 1177, which would have required school boards to use history, social studies, and civics textbooks that include California labor history up to the present. In 2004, Assembly Bill 1872 was introduced to insert labor history requirements into the California Education Code. In 2005, Assembly Bill 1 would have required the California State Board of Education to ensure that the state curriculum and framework include instruction on the history of the labor movement in the United States and that criteria for selecting textbooks include highlighting the contributions and history of the labor movement in the United States.

In addition to the legislative process, California labor unions also tried to use the regulatory process to impose their labor history curriculum. In 2004, “Applicant #31″ for the California Department of Education’s 2005 History-Social Science Primary Adoption Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) was a leader in the California Federation of Teachers’ Labor in the Schools Committee. According to the applicant’s profile provided by the Department of Education, Applicant #31 “designed and led professional development workshops on labor education at schools throughout the district, state, and country. She is the creator of the Collective Bargaining Education Project, which models a labor relations curriculum for secondary teachers and students, and author of Workplace Issues and Collective Bargaining in the Classroom, an award-winning interactive social studies curriculum.”

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California sent a letter to the Board of Education opposing the applicant. ABC pointed out the applicant’s conflict-of-interest as a prominent advocate for advancing the political agenda of labor unions in the public schools through instructional materials, some of which were written by the applicant. State Senator Jeff Denham (now a member of Congress) and Assemblyman Bob Dutton (now a State Senator and candidate for Congress) also wrote opposition letters to the Board of Education.

As usual, I was unable to find individuals or organizations specializing in education issues that were following the curriculum development and would be inclined to actively oppose the nominee. The Board of Education appointed the nominee to the panel, even though Applicant #31 was the only applicant who clearly represented a special interest group.

In the end, the State Board of Education adopted the History-Social Science Instructional Materials at its November 9, 2005 meeting, without any obvious infiltration of biased labor history into the process. Budget shortfalls have since brought a halt to the state’s process of continually revising and refining the History-Social Science framework. The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) approved a draft History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools for field review on July 17, 2009, but lack of funding has suspended further work on the framework.

Meanwhile, it appears from his recent News Releases that California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson forgot to appease his union campaign contributors this year by issuing a press release celebrating Labor History Week. Perhaps he was too busy encouraging school districts to require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with trade unions – see Project Labor Agreement Debate is as Complex as it is Conflicted – www.PublicCEO.com – March 27, 2012. So someone else of importance in California’s state government will have to wish you a belated 2012 Labor History Week.

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  1. […] wrote about this bill on April 14, 2012 in Soon, a Whole Month to Subject California Students to Union Propaganda in the Classroom. Here is the letter I submitted to the author of the bill in opposition: Dayton Letter Opposed to […]