Archive for Labor Issues in Academia

$500 Million California School Construction Funding Program for Career Technical Education – 5 1/2 Years Later, Is the Program a Success?

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I think California taxpayers deserve to hear and know a lot more about the status and results of the significant investment of taxpayer funding on the construction and improvement of California school district facilities designated for career technical education (vocational education).

For example, has statewide demand for building these school facilities faded since the big mid-2000s push for career technical education led by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger? How many students have been using these facilities, and is the rate of use increasing?

Why have some school districts not claimed the funds approved by the State Allocation Board for their career technical education facility funding?

Have there been cases in which school districts used career technical education funds to build facilities that were not used for that purpose in the end? Which school districts are guilty?

Has anyone investigated or audited some of these new or renovated facilities to determine they are actually being used for their intended purposes?

Which of the 15 sectors of career technical education have been most popular in terms of requests for state funding? Here’s the list:

  1. Agriculture and Natural Resources
  2. Arts, Media, and Entertainment
  3. Building Trades and Construction
  4. Education, Child Development, and Family Services
  5. Energy and Utilities
  6. Engineering and Design
  7. Fashion and Interior Design
  8. Finance and Business
  9. Health Science and Medical Technology
  10.  Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation
  11.  Information Technology
  12.  Manufacturing and Product Development
  13.  Marketing, Sales, and Service
  14.  Public Services
  15.  Transportation

I’ll open this issue by presenting some of the background on funding and grants.

Voters Approved $500 Million in State Matching Grants in 2006

Go back in your memory to the halycon days of the fall of 2006: the economy was booming, house prices were sky-high, construction was happening everywhere, people were paying for luxury goods and services, and taxpayers were feeling generous. And the Schwarzenegger Administration was focused on encouraging “career technical education” to train the future workforce of California for all of the anticipated new construction jobs and other jobs requiring craft skills (see list of 15 sectors, above).

So, it was a ripe time to ask California voters to approve a $10.4 billion bond called the Kindergarten–University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006. It was placed on the ballot through Assembly Bill 127, supported by most Democrat legislators, opposed by many Republican legislators, and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The ballot measure included $500 million for the construction of facilities related to career technical education programs – see California Education Code Section 101012 (a)(4).

The 2006 ballot argument in support of Proposition 1D claimed that “Many students need vocational training instead of college, but our schools do not have up-to-date facilities to provide it. 1D will enable schools to provide the career and technical training many students need to get jobs.” The 2006 ballot argument against Proposition 1D claimed the program was “untested.” (See ballot arguments here.)

Well, more the five years later, the Career Technical Education Facilities Program (CTEFP) has been “tested.” How is it doing? Have the difficult economic circumstances of the past five years cooled the enthusaism for career technical education in California schools?

Some School Districts Aren’t Asking for Their Approved Funding. Why?

The State Allocation Board allocates or apportions school construction matching grants administered by the Office of Public School Construction in the California Department of General Services.

I was inspired by an article posted on the web today (Dormant School Construction Projects Face Closer Scrutiny – June 5, 2012 – SI&A’s Cabinet Report) to examine the list provided by the Office of Public School Construction of construction projects approved for state matching grants but not funded to date. There is a large cluster of career technical education projects on the list. See the list – arranged by school district – at the end of this article. No reasons are given on the chart as to why the school districts have not requested the funds.

Funding Approval Has Declined, and Money Is Unexpectedly Still Not Allocated

The State Allocation Board reports that it made $33,031,490 in unfunded approvals available to fund applications submitted for a third funding cycle – a cycle not required in law but made possible when the $500 million was not used up in the first two rounds. It reported awarding $199 million in the first round. Despite a claim from the California Department of Education that “it is anticipated that all of the funds will be exhausted,” the second round resulted in apportionment of another $220 million for a total of about $420 million. (It is hard to pin down the exact numbers, for example, this legislative committee analysis for Senate Bill 1380, dated June 30, 2010, claimed that a total of $409 million had been apportioned in the first two cycles, while this analysis for SB 1380 dated April 15, 2010 reported that a total of $417.2 million had been apportioned in the first two cycles.)

According to a “Report of the Executive Officer” for the April 25, 2012 State Allocation Board meeting, “74 Career Technical Education Facilities Program applications totaling approximately $103.6 million in State funds have been received by the Office of Public School Construction as part of the third funding cycle, but have not been approved by the Board due to insufficient bond authority…An additional 73 Career Technical Education Facilities Program Board-approved projects totaling $94.4 million in State funds are currently on the Unfunded List (Lack of AB 55 Loans).”

The California Department of Education has a web site summarizing the program. For some reason, the Department of Education has not posted statutorily required status reports about the program since 2010. The State Allocation Board also has a web site about the program.

As a layperson looking at this program, I find it frustrating and difficult to figure out what’s going on. There should be a single site that informs taxpayers of what has been allocated to specific Career Technical Education Facilities Program projects, which applications for funding are up for approval, which projects are approved, and which projects have been approved but not funded and the reason why they are not funded. Perhaps I am naive to expect that kind of information?

In addition, there is a lot of terminology thrown about, such as “approved,” “allocated,” “apportioned,” “disbursed,” “awarded,” and “available.” It’s hard to untangle.

Proposed Legislation Suggests Either Fraud or Changing Needs in School Districts

Senate Bill 1380 (introduced in 2010) would have changed the Career Technical Education Facilities Program (authorized by the Leroy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998) to require school boards to pass a resolution indicating that school facilities constructed or modernized with specified bond funds set aside for career technical education purposes would be used for career technical education purposes for a minimum of five years. SB 1380 also allowed a school board to seek a waiver of the career technical education use requirement from the State Allocation Board if school district enrollment changed, if enrollment in career technical programs changed, if the district was unable to hire qualified instructors, or if “labor market demands” changed.

In support of this bill, Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), a member of the State Allocation Board, cited “several implementation problems with the CTEFP program, including LEAs constructing or modernizing CTE facilities and then using them for non-CTE programs.”

Despite passing through the legislature without any votes against it, Senate Bill 1380 was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger with this message:

For years many career technical education (CTE) programs and facilities have been ignored or eliminated altogether. However, during my time in office the state has made substantial investment in CTE. This bill stands to threaten the recent investments in this area, as well as the significant momentum we have achieved. By allowing CTE bond funds to be used for CTE investments with just a five year minimum lifespan, and for non-CTE related purposes, this bill seriously risks jeopardizing the quality and scope of investments we make in these facilities.

Note that this bill originally proposed transfering $200 million from the Overcrowded Relief Grants Program to the Career Technical and Education Facilities Program (CTEFP), because it was anticipated that the $500 million would be exhausted in the third round of funding. According to this legislative committee report for SB 1380, applications totaling $231 million were submitted for the third round. (Once again, figures are inconsistent from source to source.)

More Suggestions of Fraud or Changing Priorities for School Districts?

When Senator Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad/San Juan Capistrano) was appointed to the State Allocation Board in January 2012, he issued a press release entitled “Shaking Things Up at the State Allocation Board” with these remarks:

In addition to exploring in-depth how funds are allocated, this position also creates an opportunity to further promote career technical education (CTE). CTE courses engage and stimulate students with hands-on training in a wide array of fields, leading to greater student success following graduation.

Under a law I authored in 2007, applicants for bond money are required to detail how schools would use funds to house CTE programs. Unfortunately, it appears that many applicants fail to meet this requirement. With this new position I intend to bring attention to CTE and ensure that California’s schools are offering students the opportunities and resources that they deserve.

School Districts with Unfunded Approvals for Career Technical Education Construction Facility Matching Grants from the State Allocation Board under Proposition 1D

ALAMEDA COUNTY – DUBLIN UNIFIED 59/75093-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/11/2010  $533,605

ALAMEDA COUNTY – NEW HAVEN UNIFIED 59/61242-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/23/2010  $394,342

BUTTE COUNTY – CHICO UNIFIED 55/61424-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 6/6/2008  $3,000,000

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY – PITTSBURG UNIFIED 59/61788-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 2/26/2010  $1,409,655

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY – SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED 55/61804-00-005 Career Tech New Construction 3/25/2010   $817,130

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY – SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED 55/61804-00-006 Career Tech New Construction 3/25/2010   $412,085

EL DORADO COUNTY – EL DORADO UNION HIGH 59/61853-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/26/2010  $821,617

FRESNO COUNTY – KINGS CANYON JOINT UNIFIED 55/62265-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $3,000,000

KERN COUNTY – KERN COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION 55/10157-98-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/29/2010  $723,600

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-017 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $434,224

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-019 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $79,997

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-020 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $826,720

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-021 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $838,925

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-022 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $192,803

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-027 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $596,824

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-029 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $723,188

KERN COUNTY – KERN HIGH 59/63529-00-030 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010  $152,203

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – ARCADIA UNIFIED 55/64261-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $2,316,200

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – ARCADIA UNIFIED 59/64261-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010  $470,962

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LONG BEACH UNIFIED 59/64725-00-003 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/11/2010  $1,500,000

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LONG BEACH UNIFIED 59/64725-00-004 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/11/2010  $1,500,000

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-007 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $1,963,579

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-008 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $3,000,000

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-009 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $1,225,266

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-009 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $1,774,734

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-011 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $2,413,880

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 55/64733-00-013 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010  $1,533,959

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 59/64733-00-027 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010  $50,000

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – LOS ANGELES UNIFIED 59/64733-00-028 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010  $1,401,783

MADERA COUNTY – CHAWANAKEE UNIFIED 55/75606-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/16/2010   $2,086,640

MONTEREY COUNTY – MONTEREY COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION 59/10272-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/30/2010  $660,837

NAPA COUNTY – NAPA VALLEY UNIFIED 55/66266-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010   $465,127

ORANGE COUNTY – TUSTIN UNIFIED 59/73643-00-003 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010   $73,732

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – BEAUMONT UNIFIED 59/66993-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/30/2010   $1,335,796

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – DESERT SANDS UNIFIED 55/67058-00-003 Career Tech New Construction 3/10/2010   $2,130,036

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – DESERT SANDS UNIFIED 55/67058-00-005 Career Tech New Construction 3/10/2010   $1,040,611

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – DESERT SANDS UNIFIED 55/67058-00-006 Career Tech New Construction 3/10/2010   $2,666,732

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – RIVERSIDE UNIFIED 59/67215-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/24/2010   $579,687

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – COLTON-REDLANDS-YUCAIPA ROP 59/74138-00-015 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/30/2010   $2,050

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – RIALTO UNIFIED 55/67850-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/3/2010   $1,926,384

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – RIALTO UNIFIED 59/67850-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/3/2010   $1,114,449

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – SWLINE JOINT UNIFIED 55/73957-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/3/2010   $1,093,051

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – SWLINE JOINT UNIFIED 55/73957-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 3/3/2010   $1,031,968

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – CORONADO UNIFIED 59/68031-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $1,360,199

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – GROSSMONT UNION HIGH 55/68130-13-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/30/2010   $3,000,000

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 55/68338-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/22/2010   $2,918,735

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 55/68338-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 3/22/2010   $986,812

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 55/68338-00-004 Career Tech New Construction 3/22/2010   $1,470,162

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $1,427,767

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-002 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $473,045

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-004 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $1,380,824

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-006 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $473,110

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-007 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $1,022,484

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – SAN DIEGO UNIFIED 59/68338-00-008 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/22/2010   $1,500,000

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – MANTECA UNIFIED 55/68593-00-004 Career Tech New Construction 3/22/2010   $2,253,216

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – STOCKTON UNIFIED 55/68676-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 3/29/2010   $3,000,000

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – STOCKTON UNIFIED 59/68676-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/29/2010   $1,499,715

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – TRACY JOINT UNIFIED 59/75499-00-007 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010   $514,087

SAN MATEO COUNTY – SEQUOIA UNION HIGH 55/69062-00-004 Career Tech New Construction 3/30/2010   $2,073,405

SAN MATEO COUNTY – SEQUOIA UNION HIGH 55/69062-00-006 Career Tech New Construction 3/30/2010   $3,000,000

SAN MATEO COUNTY – SEQUOIA UNION HIGH 55/69062-00-007 Career Tech New Construction 3/30/2010   $3,000,000

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – CAMPBELL UNION HIGH 55/69401-00-007 Career Tech New Construction 3/8/2010   $625,964

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – CAMPBELL UNION HIGH 59/69401-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/8/2010   $1,003,238

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – CAMPBELL UNION HIGH 59/69401-00-002 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/8/2010   $610,353

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – GILROY UNIFIED 59/69484-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010   $1,191,901

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – PALO ALTO UNIFIED 55/69641-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 3/30/2010   $3,000,000

SIERRA COUNTY – SIERRA-PLUMAS JOINT UNIFIED 55/70177-00-001 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010   $174,412

SISKIYOU COUNTY – SISKIYOU UNION HIGH 55/70466-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 4/1/2010   $296,772

SISKIYOU COUNTY – SISKIYOU UNION HIGH 59/70466-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010   $143,380

SONOMA COUNTY – SANTA ROSA HIGH 55/70920-00-002 Career Tech New Construction 3/26/2010  $1,332,711

STANISLAUS COUNTY – CERES UNIFIED 59/71043-00-003 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/25/2010   $1,201,300

STANISLAUS COUNTY – MODESTO CITY HIGH 59/71175-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 4/1/2010   $337,760

SUTTER COUNTY – YUBA CITY UNIFIED 59/71464-00-001 Career Tech Rehabilitation 3/30/2010   $839,622

There, Fixed It: “Know Your ABC”

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Today the Washington, D.C.-based Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO launched a new program trying to undermine the credibility of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). From 1995 through March 2012, I held various government affairs management positions with ABC, first at the national office in Washington, D.C., then with the Golden Gate Chapter in Northern California as the Vice President of Government Affairs, and then with ABC of California as its State Government Affairs Director. Now I’m gone from ABC and newly emerged as the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, with its research project, the Dayton Public Policy Institute.

So I escaped the latest union blanket accusation of using the “dark arts.” Nevertheless, for old time’s sake, I’m correcting the important, ponderous prose of the introductory paragraphs on the new union web site “Know Your ABC” at

During any number of dark periods in human history, the forces who set their designs upon absolute power and oppression subscribed to the theory that an endless stream of lies and distortions was central to achieving their aims. It was, and still is, known as propaganda, and its primary objective is to persuade people of what those seeking power and control think is right – regardless of the facts. To those seeking power, propaganda does not have to be popular, nor does is (sic) it have to be intellectually pleasing, because, according to the theory, it is not the goal of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.

In our modern system of political debate and discourse, those tenets have, unfortunately, been embraced and put into practice by various ideologues and extreme organizations. And nowhere are the dark arts of political propaganda being deployed with such outsized exactitude than inside the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and their regional and local affiliates. The distortions, falsehoods and outright lies being consistently perpetrated by the ABC construction union political machine when it comes to issues such as prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements (PLAs), are prime examples of the ABC’s Big Labor’s aggressive and disciplined devotion to the propaganda playbook.

Some might consider this to be the most powerful manifesto written since the Port Huron Statement, although others might consider it ripe for parody. I never considered ABC to be a practitioner of the “dark arts.” Seventeen years ago ABC was known as The Mean Team, because “…it is tenacious and favors the take-no-prisoners approach to litigation and lobbying…it’s just another day at the office for the ABC’s pugnacious team.” But maybe things are different now in this dark period of human history.

Here’s the press release announcing the introduction of the “Know Your ABC” program, with its “special” report written by a faculty member of the soon-to-be campus-free National Labor College:

America’s Labor Leaders to Release Major Study on the Associated Builders and Contractors

California angle: Notice that “on the call and available for comment” is Bob Balgenorth of the “California State Building Trades Council.”

National Labor College Selling Its Campus (That’s OK, Taxpayers Are Funding Dozens of Labor Colleges at State Universities Anyway)

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The blog “Union Organizer,” maintained by a Los Angeles-based “International Lead Organizer” for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) named Bob Oedy (see his web site at, appears to have broken the news story on the web that the National Labor College is selling its Silver Spring, Maryland campus (just outside of Washington, D.C.) and dedicating itself exclusively to on-line instruction and degrees.

His blog is also the only place I could find on the web that posted this official April 9, 2012 announcement: Email Statement of President Paula E. Peinovich of National Labor College/George Meany Center. Mr. Oedy is a graduate of the National Labor College with a B.A. in Labor Studies.

I first became aware of the existence of the National Labor College when I learned about a senior thesis entitled “Unrelenting Pursuit of the Non-Signatory Electrical Contractors in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $11 Billion of Construction Work: Subscription Agreements.” To complete her requirements for a B.A. in Labor Studies at the National Labor College in 2004, a compliance official for IBEW Local 11 named Diana Limon wrote about how this Los Angeles-based IBEW local union compels non-union electrical contractors of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to make their employer payments for fringe benefits to IBEW-affiliated trust funds, as they are required to do under the school district’s Project Labor Agreement (PLA). As you can see from this July 7, 2004 article on the IBEW web site, IBEW Local 11 officials actively used the National Labor College program.

I was unable to find ANY references whatsoever on the National Labor College web site about the closing of the physical campus, nor any hints that the college might soon lose its “accreditation.” A web site called Inside Higher Education reported on the closure on April 10. (See “National Labor College Will Sell Its Campus” and read the comments too.) The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on April 16 that “labor historians” were concerned that a “Key Labor Archive May Be Inaccessible After Labor College Sells Campus.” The May 3 Washington Times triumphantly reported “Big Labor Forced to Sell Its Only College” and declared the move to be “the latest sign of the fast-shrinking Big Labor movement.”

My personal opinion is that most post-secondary education providers – including the ones described as “colleges” – don’t need a physical campus and don’t need to submit to the indignities of any accreditation system either. Why would hard-core union ideologues feel the need to conform to the trappings of corporatized higher education? It reminds me of young Occupy Wall Street activists who condemn corporations but seem blind to how the government-academia complex gave them empty and meaningless educations at outrageous prices.

If certain union officials or union activists want “prestige” associated with their education in Labor Studies or Union Organizing, they can simply use one of the dozens of biased, taxpayer-funded labor studies programs based at state universities across the country, such as the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program or the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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 – – March 27, 2012. So someone else of importance in California’s state government will have to wish you a belated 2012 Labor History Week.