Education

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

770 New Laws Coming to California

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2021 at 2:27 PM

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the largest expansion of California’s college financial aid system in a generation — he did so during the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants’ first playoff game Friday night.

Hours later, it was all over: Newsom signed his final bills on Saturday, a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 proposals state lawmakers sent to his desk. Of those, he signed 770 (92 percent) and vetoed 66 (7.9 percent), according to Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli.

Here’s a look at the significant new laws coming to the Golden State — as well as ideas Newsom prevented from becoming law.

Signed into law:

Vetoed:

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Ethnic Studies Becomes Graduation Requirement for California Students

Posted By on Mon, Oct 11, 2021 at 5:06 AM

Students at Piner High School in Santa Rosa listen to their instructor on the first day of AP European History on August 14, 2019. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
  • Students at Piner High School in Santa Rosa listen to their instructor on the first day of AP European History on August 14, 2019.
After a years-long battle reignited in recent months by controversies over misunderstandings of critical race theory, California students will soon be required to take ethnic studies to graduate high school.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 101 into law on Friday afternoon, requiring California high school students to take ethnic studies to graduate, starting with the class of 2030. Educators and recent studies attest to the benefits of students learning the histories and cultures of marginalized communities, but a few parents still worry the requirement could create more tensions between students.

“The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,” said Assemblymember Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside who authored AB 101. “Students cannot have a full understanding of the history of our state and nation without the inclusion of the contributions and struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.”

Last year, Newsom vetoed a similar bill, also authored by Medina, citing the need for revision in the model curriculum.

The previous versions of the curriculum were widely criticized for being anti-semitic, too politically correct and filled with jargon. It used terms like “cisheteropatriarchy” and “hxrstory,” while describing capitalism as a system that exploits native people and other communities of color.

But the newest version of the model curriculum, approved by the State Board of Education in March, has garnered support from some of those who opposed the initial drafts. Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, the vice-chair of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, was one of the legislators won over by the changes.

“The curriculum would not be teaching anti-semitism or any form of hate,” he said before the Senate’s floor vote on Sept. 9. “The final adopted version was a dramatic improvement and something that we have all rallied around and defended.”

The latest version of the curriculum contains more neutral descriptions of capitalism, and addressed various concerns from the Jewish Caucus.

Thirty-three sample lessons are organized into broader subsections of “General Ethnic Studies,” “African American Studies,” “Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x Studies,” “Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies” and “Native American Studies.” Lessons on antisemitism, Jewish American identity, Arab American Studies and Armenian migration are included in a separate section titled “Seeking Models of Interethnic Bridge-Building.

“Those in power have always had an advantage over those who don’t have power. That’s the bottom line.”

Carlos Castillo, assistant superintendent, Fresno Unified School District

Specific lessons include “Migration Stories and Oral History,” “#BlackLivesMatter and Social Change,” “Afrofuturism: Reimagining Black Futures and Science Fiction,” “US Undocumented Immigrants from Mexico and Beyond,” “The Immigration Experience of Lao Americans” and “This is Indian Land: The Purpose, Politics, and Practice of Land Acknowledgment.”

So far, San Francisco, Fresno and San Diego Unified school districts already require their students to take ethnic studies to graduate. Fresno Unified started offering the class six years ago and will make it a graduation requirement for the graduating class of 2026.

“I think a lot of what we’re getting is they really love being able to have a class like this for the first time in their school careers where their class content is matching their own upbringing,” said Carlos Castillo, who oversees curriculum and instruction at the district. “It’s nice to hear that, but it’s also heartbreaking to hear that from students in 11th grade.”

Castillo said he hasn’t heard much criticism about the district teaching ethnic studies, but he’s sure the critics are out there. He said he’s confident that in the long term, the course will help students build empathy toward their peers while understanding how those in power have marginalized other groups.

“I think there will be more understanding,” he said. “Those in power have always had an advantage over those who don’t have power. That’s the bottom line.”

The editorial board at the Los Angeles Times opposed the bill because it provides too much flexibility for local districts to design their own curricula that could deviate from the state’s own model curriculum. Thousands from California’s Jewish community signed a petition opposing the bill because it would allow districts to use a previous draft of the model curriculum that has been criticized for containing anti-Semitic content.

Victoria Samper, a parent volunteer for Latinx for Quality Education, said she and her organization opposed the requirement because, she said, these conversations about oppression cultivates a “victim mentality” for students. Samper said ethnic studies should focus primarily on the historical figures who overcame adversity.

“There are lots of people, important historical figures who are positive role models,” she said. “You have a lot of musicians and athletes who are good role models. Teaching students that they are oppressed is not the way to go.”

But the model curriculum both highlights achievements and teaches the often violent histories of marginalized and oppressed communities.

A recent study found that teaching ethnic studies has had widespread benefits for students at San Francisco Unified. Researchers found that GPAs increased among students enrolled in ethnic studies. Students’ attendance improved as well. Students with GPAs near 2.o saw some of the greatest benefits, increasing their chances of graduating high school.

“Being a high school graduate has so many long-term economic benefits: more civic engagement, better health outcomes, less criminal activity,” said Thomas Dee, an education professor at Stanford University and one of the authors of the study. “It’s an engine for positive social outcomes.”

Dee said this study was “the most surprising of my entire career.” He said he expected little to no measurable outcomes for students. But he warned that school leaders must train their teachers before they’re required to teach ethnic studies so their students can get the most out of the course.

“I think it’s important for districts to use the time AB 101 provides to step back from the controversy over the model curriculum and properly prepare their teachers,” Dee said. “Imagine taking an unprepared teacher into the classroom. It can go sideways.”

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Friday, October 8, 2021

One Loophole Remains in Student COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2021 at 10:13 AM

Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden expects the vast majority of his students and staff to abide by the COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 1.

But he also expects around 10 of his employees to quit out of personal or political opposition to it.

“It’s a really small number, but the individuals who are upset about it are vocal,” said McFadden, whose district in Nevada County is about 65 miles northwest of Sacramento. “The silent, vast majority of educators are saying, OK, we’ll get vaccinated.”

As a small minority of teachers and parents across the state protest vaccine mandates, one legislator is considering ways to strengthen the new immunization requirement by eliminating a controversial public-health loophole state lawmakers had previously removed for the 10 other required vaccines for California’s students.

“The purpose of these laws is not to make anyone vaccinate their children, it’s to keep schools safe,” said state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a Democrat and pediatrician who chairs the Senate Health Committee. “You don’t want schools having to close, and people having to be sent home and quarantined.”

The vaccine mandate announced last week will take effect as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccine for the different age groups. The Newsom administration expects the first vaccine deadline for grades 7-12 to be July 1, 2022.

The mandate, however, allows for personal belief exemptions. This means students and staff could opt-out of the COVID-19 vaccine for religious or ideological reasons.

The process for a personal belief exemptions for vaccinations vary across the country for students and employees, according to Dorit Reiss, a law professor at UC Hastings.

“Some just ask to check a box on a form,” she said. “Others have a different process like submitting a letter.

Pan has a long history with strengthening vaccine rules for students. In 2012, he authored a law that required parents seeking a personal belief exemption to consult with a medical expert about the benefits and risks of vaccinations.

In 2015, he co-authored a law which eliminated the personal belief exemption for childhood immunizations altogether.

Pan then successfully tightened regulations on medical exemptions in 2019 with a bill that required the California Department of Public Health to audit all medical exemptions at schools with immunization rates of less than 95%, and doctors who submit more than five medical exemptions every calendar year. Anti-vaccine protesters zealously opposed the bill.

Friday’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate revived the issue of the personal belief exemption because the 2015 law requires any immunization requirements issued by the state health department without a vote from the Legislature to include the provision.

“At the time, we were more concerned about routine vaccinations. We were thinking, why have a fight that doesn’t really matter?” Pan said. “The laws that we wrote for school mandates were not written with pandemics in mind. That’s why that provision is in there.”

Pan says he’ll consider authoring legislation that would eliminate the exemption if COVID-19 cases spike across the state or if districts report a high number of students and staff who abuse this provision to avoid the vaccine.

A possible bill, Pan said, would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of already required immunizations for both public and private school students. Then it would be treated like the other 10 vaccine requirements that don’t allow for a personal belief exemption under SB 277.

“The problem with the personal belief exemption is that if there are too many people who use it, we’ll have schools that are unsafe,” he said. “We need to be sure kids can stay in school and learn and not have to be sent home for two weeks.”

The California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in support of the mandate.

“The eradication of smallpox and polio, as well as prevention of meningitis, measles and whooping cough show that vaccines work,” said chapter Chair Yasuko Fukuda. “New vaccines are developed and evaluated by a long-standing rigorous process to ensure effectiveness and safety.”

Catherine Martin, executive director of the California Immunization Coalition, a public-health advocacy group, said she understands the concerns of the parents who are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, but she agrees that the personal belief exemption should be eliminated.

“The number one reason to eliminate the personal belief exemption is to be consistent,” Martin said. “This vaccine is no riskier than any other vaccine.”

COVID-19 vaccines do not currently have FDA approval for kids, but are expected to by the time the mandate goes into effect.

Martin said her organization will spend the next months supporting pediatricians and school administrators as they explain the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine to students and their families.

“Parents are suffering because they really are scared,” she said. “Doctors are really going to need to up their game in terms of taking time and answering their questions.”

However, Martin has less sympathy for teachers and school staff who refuse to get vaccinated for political reasons.

“If they’re not believing in the science or if it’s a political belief, perhaps they need to find other work,” she said. “Perhaps this is going to weed out folks who don’t believe in the science.”

The California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd released a statement last week supporting the vaccine mandate for students and said the vast majority of teachers have already been fully vaccinated.

“While recognizing the need for medical and religious exemptions, we believe vaccinations are key for both student and educator safety, keeping our schools open for in-person instruction and for combating this pandemic,” Boyd said.

CTA spokesperson Lisa Gardiner declined to comment on whether the union would support the elimination of the personal belief exemption if legislators were to propose a bill.

McFadden expects most of his employees, even those opposing the mandate, will eventually get their vaccines so they can keep their jobs. He said when the governor issued a previous mandate requiring teachers to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing, many teachers complained, but most came around.

“They said, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ but then they realized they have to pay the rent,” he said. “I might have five or 10 that don’t get vaccinated, and they’ll leave.”

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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Newsom is Running Out of Time to Sign Bills

Posted By on Thu, Oct 7, 2021 at 2:46 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs legislation at CSU Northridge to improve college affordability and increase access to higher education. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
  • Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Press Office
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom signs legislation at CSU Northridge to improve college affordability and increase access to higher education.
T-minus three days.

That’s how much time Gov. Gavin Newsom has left to decide the fate of the remaining bills on his desk — and as the deadline draws nearer, the buildup for big-ticket and contentious proposals is getting more intense.

The direct impact of Newsom’s decisions was particularly apparent Wednesday, when he signed a stack of higher education bills — including one that makes it easier for community college students to transfer to a CSU or UC campus — while onstage at CSU Northridge, surrounded by lawmakers and pom pom-waving cheerleaders. “Eat your heart out, Texas! Eat your heart out, Florida!” Newsom yelled — referring to California’s $47.1 billion higher education budget — as the audience cheered. “Eat your heart out, Tennessee! Eat your heart out, fill-in-the-damn-blank!”

Conspicuously absent from the package, however, was a bill that would usher in the most consequential reforms to California’s financial aid system in a generation.

Also Wednesday, Newsom launched the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, which has as one of its stated goals providing “young people with the tools necessary to recognize and respond to on-campus instances of anti-Semitism and bigotry.” The move comes as some Holocaust survivors urge Newsom to veto a bill that would make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement. Citing anti-Semitic content, Jewish groups were some of the most vocal critics of early drafts of California’s ethnic studies model curriculum — which the state Board of Education approved in March after taking into account more than 100,000 public comments.

Here’s a look at other noteworthy bills Newsom signed or vetoed in the past few days.

Signed into law:

Vetoed:

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,524,853 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 69,184 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 50,081,818 vaccine doses, and 70.9% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election and the top 21 bills state lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

UC Workforce Churn: Why a Quarter of Lecturers Don’t Return Each Year

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2021 at 5:33 AM

David Walter stands for a portrait at Encino Park in Encino on March 23, 2021. David is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley lecturing on humanities and creative writing. - PHOTO BY SHAE HAMMOND FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters
  • David Walter stands for a portrait at Encino Park in Encino on March 23, 2021. David is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley lecturing on humanities and creative writing.
Sami Siegelbaum loved teaching art history at UCLA even when his office space was a storage closet.

The pay, at around $27,000 a year for the part-time job, wasn’t great, though it was more than what he made at his teaching posts at two other colleges.

But after four years, his UCLA teaching contract wasn’t renewed in 2019 with little explanation. The university wanted to “bring in new approaches” about every three years, his department chair wrote to him, noting that the decision had nothing to do with any evaluation. In fact, Siegelbaum said no one from the department ever observed his teaching.

“I can’t overemphasize how much of a blow it was,” Siegelbaum said. It’s not just the financial hit while having one child then, now two, and living in an expensive city with his wife, a graphic designer freelancer. His identity as an academic was tied to UCLA. “It’s still a really raw wound.”

Each year, Siegelbaum is one of thousands of University of California lecturers whose teaching contracts aren’t renewed, underscoring the paltry job security available to a vital segment that provides one-third of the instruction undergraduate students receive at the vaunted four-year public university system.

About a quarter or more of lecturers working one year disappeared from UC employment rolls the following year annually between 2015 and 2020, according to a CalMatters analysis of UC personnel data that it acquired from the university through a public records request. The findings largely mirror the lecturer union’s internal data it shared with CalMatters.

That’s a much higher rate than for other state and local education workers. Nationally, just less than a fifth separated from their jobs annually, according to federal labor statistics. But the nation’s labor force is a more volatile place overall: Among all nonfarm workers, about 42 percent to 45 percent separated from their jobs in each of the years between 2015 and 2019.

The lecturer turnover — also known as churn — in that time at the UC has been an average of about 1,440 lecturers annually and peaked at 1,618 in 2020. But paradoxically, the overall number of UC lecturers continues to grow, raising speculation among the union representing lecturers that the UC is relying on a cadre of part-time workers with few protections to educate its more than 285,000 students and keep costs low. The figures don’t say why lecturers leave, though the lecturers’ union maintains that most aren’t re-appointed by the UC rather than leave on their own volition.

The UC refers to the churn as “alleged” in a document posted on the system’s website in March. It counters that not all lecturers want to teach regularly, citing examples of professionals such as dentists and lawyers who have full-time jobs and also lecturers who seek other employment after a couple years. It also cites budgetary changes at departments and that courses lecturers teach aren’t always recurring.

The UC declined to make anyone available to interview for this story despite multiple requests over several months.

The lecturers have had it. Over the summer the union’s members voted to allow union leadership to declare a strike. That gives the union some leverage in its negotiations with the UC president’s office in crafting a new contract. Helping the union’s efforts is support from tenured and tenure-track faculty who hold more sway in university affairs. By early October more than 400 tenured faculty had signed a petition saying they would cancel their classes in solidarity with the lecturer union if it strikes.

All told, the anger of the lecturers could lead to thousands of canceled classes affecting more than a third of undergraduates.

Lecturers occupy a tenuous position in the instructional hierarchy at the UC. Unlike tenured and tenure-track faculty who conduct research and are expected to publish scholarly papers in addition to teaching, lecturers focus on instruction and rarely have the assurances of continuous employment given to tenured faculty, who on average make three to six times more than lecturers at the UC. Lecturers can be full time but are often part time and typically have a doctoral degree or equivalent. They mostly teach lower division and general-education courses and so are often a student’s first introduction to academic life and frequently become mentors.

That many lecturers don’t last long can leave an interpersonal hole in students’ time at the UC.

Current UC labor rules give lecturers more job stability if they work in the same department for 12 semesters or 18 quarters — the equivalent of six years — and pass an “excellence” review. Reaching that level of job security, however, can take even longer if lecturers aren’t assigned teaching positions every term or change departments. Before reaching that continuing status, lecturers can be let go for any or no reason, and generally don’t have any expectation of keeping their positions year to year. Once they get that continuing status, lecturers can still be laid off, but only with a year’s notice, buying them more time to find work elsewhere.

Lecturers are also guaranteed a 6 [ercent raise, often their first, after three cumulative years in the same department. But the average time of employment for UC lecturers is just two years, meaning many won’t qualify for that wage bump.

Said Mia McIver, a lecturer and president of UC-AFT, the union representing the UC’s more than 6,000 lecturers: “What we’re fighting for is to stop the gig-ification of the university.”

Mia McIver stands for a portrait at UCLA in Brentwood on March 20, 2021. Mia is an adjunct professor of 20th century literature at UCLA. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters
Mia McIver stands for a portrait at UCLA in Brentwood on March 20, 2021. Mia is an adjunct professor of 20th century literature at UCLA. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

To her, the combination of lecturer turnover and prevalence of part-time work spells out a situation in which “the UC often expects us to take the pride and prestige of teaching at the University of California as part of our compensation package, which it is not.”

A spokesperson for the UC Office of the President wrote that the “UC highly values its lecturers” and this “is reflected in the fact that UC lecturers enjoy some of the best pay, benefits and working conditions in the country.”

Lecturers push back on that characterization, with many pointing out that the UC is unique in California for offering no review process for lecturers, which allows campuses to dismiss the instructors without explaining why — arguably the biggest sticking point for UC lecturers. By contrast, lecturers at Cal State University are reviewed annually, typically by department chairs.

That’s something Cal State faculty fought for, said Meghan O’Donnell, who represents lecturers in the Cal State faculty union. “Having something in writing is really helpful in us advocating for our faculty and showing that they deserve to be rehired,” she said.

Tenured faculty in solidarity with the lecturers argue that the UC’s shortchanging of lecturers is part of a “cost-cutting logic” that “starves our academic departments and programs that tells us to do more with less,” said Debbie Gould, a sociology professor at UC Santa Cruz and co-chair of the campus’s faculty association.

As the state’s third-largest employer, UC has an outsized labor role in California. For unions and workers’ rights advocates, the system can set the tone for labor issues both statewide and nationally.

Labor contract impasse

The union has been operating without a new contract since February 2020. Negotiations with the UC president’s office are at an impasse after two years of failed efforts. The UC is proposing certain pay bumps for lecturers; the union argues those raises won’t keep pace with inflation.

A key sticking point for the lecturers union is that it wants the UC to spell out what criteria it’ll use to determine whether a lecturer stays on the job or not. Currently, one doesn’t functionally exist.

“When there is no evaluation, no performance review, no in-class observation of teaching, nobody really knows ‘How are teachers teaching?’ ” McIver said.

The UC’s position is that if a UC campus wants to bring back a lecturer, they’ll do an evaluation. McIver calls that “putting the cart before the horse. How do you know whether you want to reappoint someone unless you’ve already done that performance evaluation?”

“You’re articulating something that people aren’t even recognizing as a crisis… I don’t hear people talking enough about the churn issue.”

Adrianna Kezar, faculty labor dynamics scholar at USC

Without an evaluation, lecturers don’t know why they’re being let go. The lecturer union contends that the UC is holding onto that power of ambiguity intentionally: to prevent lecturers from accumulating the semesters of service they need within a department to receive continuing appointments and the added job security that comes with it.

Lecturers have long complained that the UC relies on their temporary status as a cost-cutting tactic. It’s partly why lecturers went on strike in 2002, when a union leader said the UC operates like “drivers in pick-up trucks who pick up day laborers and pay them for one day and then never see them again.”

The result of that work stoppage was the “continuing lecturer” status that gave some lecturers an indefinite teaching appointment.

The UC doesn’t use terms like cost-cutting, but argued in 2002 that lecturers are an inherently temporary position to meet the teaching needs of the campuses. UC literature today makes similar references to the need for flexibility with lecturer hires, saying some don’t come back because of “academic programmatic or budgetary changes within a department.”

Regardless, the UC has increasingly relied on their work to teach classes. Since 2011, the number of lecturers at the UC has risen by 41 percent while faculty on the permanent track have risen just 19 percent.

The UC maintains that it provides generous job stability to lecturers, saying that it’s one of two universities in the U.S. where lecturers can continue their appointment indefinitely once they clear that six-year threshold to receive continuing appointments.

But union data suggests there’s scant hope of continuous employment: About 1,200 of the more than 6,300 lecturers in 2019-20 had continuing status (the data CalMatters obtained through a public records request doesn’t contain continuing lecturer status).

McIver has continuing status now, but it took her 11 years, not six. Initially she taught at UC Irvine for five years, getting 75 percent of full-time work. When a full-time position at UCLA opened up for the same job in an identical department, she took it, but surrendered her service credit toward continuing status and started all over. Even changing departments within the same university restarts the clock on continuing status.

National comparisons for lecturer churn are virtually non-existent. When CalMatters shared the UC churn data findings with Adrianna Kezar, a leading scholar on faculty labor dynamics at the University of Southern California, she said the numbers are evidence of a lecturer turnover crisis that isn’t getting enough attention.

“I think you’re articulating something that people aren’t even recognizing as a crisis, which I think is important,” Kezar said. “I don’t hear people talking enough about the churn issue.”

Few job protections

The pursuit of stable academic work often requires lecturers to hustle, “but then it turns out that there is no tenure track position available,” Siegelbaum said, leaving the lecturer “clinging to these gigs that you have.” Other lecturers spoke of maintaining relationships with department chairs to continue receiving teaching work, made more challenging whenever a new chair emerges.

During his first year lecturing at UCLA, Siegelbaum would teach two classes back-to-back at Loyola Marymount University and then have an hour to crawl along the 405 freeway in his car before the start of his three-hour course at UCLA.

“You’ve entered this track and rut and it’s not easy to make moves to a different industry or career or sector,” Siegelbaum said.

He now teaches at three colleges, none a UC, while seeking arbitration with UCLA after he and the union filed a grievance saying he was wrongfully dismissed. But because lecturers had weak job protections to begin with, he said the union wasn’t hopeful a ruling would land in his favor.

David Walters stands for a portrait at Encino Park in Encino on March 23, 2021. David is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley lecturing on humanities and creative writing. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters
David Walter stands for a portrait at Encino Park in Encino on March 23, 2021. David is an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley lecturing on humanities and creative writing. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

Five years after earning his Ph.D in sociology in 2008, Michael Calderon-Zaks quit teaching altogether because he couldn’t land a university job at either a UC or California State University that lasted longer than a single term in Northern California. He moved to Los Angeles to attend a master’s program in urban planning, but left it after two terms because he got a job teaching at a community college near Los Angeles. That led to more work, ultimately resulting in lecturer positions at UC Irvine, UCLA and now UC San Diego where he’s starting his fourth year of teaching. At 46, “it’s only in the last five years that I’ve had some stability,” said Calderon-Zaks, who’s taught at six UCs.

It’s not uncommon for lecturers to learn they’ll be invited to teach again a month or less before fall of the new academic year begins, even though the union contract with the UC asks that campuses do so by or around June 1.

David Walter was even once hired a week into the semester at Berkeley. Just before the start of this academic year he got notice to teach for two departments this fall, going from unemployed to beyond full-time in a flash. “One of the things you have to show the department is that you’re capable of working fast to put a class together,” said the professor of literature, who is also a local union representative. He’s still unsure if he’ll be asked to teach this spring, though.

Preserving more lecturers has equity implications, too. Lecturers are more likely to be women and people of color. While 65 percent of tenured faculty were white, the same was true for just 57 percent of lecturers in 2020. Two-thirds of tenured faculty were men in 2019; more than half of lecturers were women. Pervasive part-time appointments for lecturers often mean moonlighting shifts at other colleges or gig work. UC’s lecturers each earn $32,000 per year, according to a CalMatters analysis of UC wage data through a public records request, in part because so many are given part-time assignments.

Calderon’s main source of work, UC San Diego, didn’t offer him a winter position last academic year, so he received jobless benefits until spring quarter began. Walter, without enough lecturing positions at Berkeley to feel financially steady, is trying to sell payment processing systems to restaurants in San Francisco. He’d rather be a continuing lecturer, something that grants a reasonable assurance of stability and pays enough to dedicate time to writing book reviews or other scholarly tasks.

The effect on undergraduate students

For students, the revolving door of lecturers upends valuable relations they’ve developed with educators who’ve inspired or mentored them in one year only to be gone completely the next.

“It’s weird to get letters of recommendation from students and places I no longer teach at,” Calderon-Zaks said. Early this year a student from UCLA asked Calderon-Zaks to write her a letter of recommendation, even though he hasn’t taught there since last spring. “We have no security to show for it and, of course, the irony is that we’re still being asked even though we’re no longer there.”

Decades of research show that the more students interact with faculty, the more they gain from their college educations.

“It’s incredibly problematic if the faculty are not there to develop these relationships,” said Kezar, the USC professor, in an interview. She co-wrote a paper on the effect faculty churn can have on student academics.

For students, the revolving door of lecturers upends valuable relations they’ve developed with educators who’ve inspired or mentored them.

Chase Hobbs-Morgan, a political science lecturer at UC Santa Barbara, told the UC Regents in Sept. how they commit a lot of their personal time to mentoring struggling students. But “because I never know when my job will expire, I can’t credibly tell I’ll be able to support them down the line,” Hobbs-Morgan said.

That would have been bad news for Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, a senior at UC Santa Barbara and president of the UC Student Association, who has taken Morgan’s classes several times and credits them with helping her feel more welcomed as a UC student who can academically thrive.

In an interview, she spoke fondly of how Morgan parked themselves outside a campus cafe during finals week for several hours so that students could write their papers and ask questions.

Lecturers tend to teach her favorite courses, said Quintero-Cubillan. While tenured professors focus on research, it’s the lecturers, by virtue of focusing just on teaching, whose instruction she appreciates more. Lecturers “are usually more dedicated to our lived experiences and our actual learning,” she said.

It wasn’t always like this

Faculty turnover wasn’t always a feature of universities, in large part because most university professors were full time and tenured. Until the early 1980s, “we didn’t have churn; faculty tended to stay at their campuses for most of their career,” said Kezar, the USC researcher.

But a combination of state spending cuts and increased reliance on part-time faculty slowly chipped away at that standard nationally, leading to a situation where nationally 45 percent of faculty were tenured or tenure-track at universities and colleges with doctoral programs in fall 2018, down from 51 percent a decade earlier.

Comparable figures for the UC are difficult to determine, but a researcher at the American Association of University Professors crunched federal data for CalMatters, showing that among full-time faculty, 61 percent were tenured or on the tenure track in fall 2018, down from 67 percent a decade earlier.

California’s diminishing investment in higher education may also be a factor in fewer tenure opportunities. At the turn of the millennium, the state budget gave the UC about $28,000 per student. In 2018, it was half that, around $13,500.

In 1980, higher-education spending far dwarfed prison spending in California, receiving five times more in state dollars. Though higher education now still receives more from the general fund, state corrections gets comparatively much more than it did before: Last year, higher education received $17.9 billion while corrections got $12.4 billion.

Not all lecturers have a tortuous time reaching continuing lecturer status. Charlotte Smith, a continuing lecturer at Berkeley’s school of public health, said her experience is how it should be for every lecturer. She was able to stay at the same department for six years before reaching continuing service. “I didn’t have that fear or that uncertainty,” she said. “I had confidence that every year that I would be brought back.”

Possible strike and looking ahead

There are steps to take before thousands of lecturers walk off the job.

The two sides are now in state-led mediation through the California Public Employment Relations Board. If mediation doesn’t lead to both parties agreeing on a contract, state law allows either side to call for the creation of a fact-finding panel that can issue non-binding solutions. The UC Board of Regents, which oversees the UC system, then may have to vote publicly on whether to adopt those recommendations.

If it comes down to a decision by the Regents, expect fireworks. Several tenured faculty called during the July and September meetings to voice their solidarity with the union even though their jobs are secure.

Harold Marcuse, a history professor at UC Santa Barbara, said longer contracts for lecturers means less headache for administrative faculty in searching for new lecturers: “Once we have found them, we want to keep them, and keep them happy.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.


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Friday, October 1, 2021

Student COVID Vaccinations: California Becomes First State to Require Them for Kids in Schools

Posted By on Fri, Oct 1, 2021 at 10:36 AM

In another aggressive effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure schools remain open, Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced a vaccine mandate for students ages 12 and older, making California the first state in the nation to require students to be fully vaccinated for in-person instruction.

The mandate would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations, which includes mumps, measles and rubella. Newsom issued this order in the aftermath of similar mandates from the state’s largest districts, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified.

Parents still have some time to get their students vaccinated. The state mandate will go into effect only once the federal Food and Drug Administration fully approves vaccines for those 12 and older. Upon FDA approval, students will have until the start of the following academic term, either Jan. 1 or July 1, to be fully vaccinated.

The state expects that based on current FDA timelines, students grades 7-12 will be required to be vaccinated by July 1, 2022.

Students who are currently too young to get the vaccine will be required to receive their doses as soon as they reach the required age, but they’ll be given a “reasonable period of time to receive both doses.”

The mandate comes in the aftermath of Newsom’s overwhelming victory in September’s recall election, during which the governor leaned into mask and vaccine mandates.

A survey released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that most families nationwide are willing to vaccinate their children.

California students who do not get fully vaccinated will be required to enroll in independent study, the only alternative to in-person instruction being offered this year.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Arcata High Students Walk Out to Stand with Sexual Assault Survivors

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2021 at 11:06 AM

Hundreds of Arcata High School students walked out of class Wednesday to show support and stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault, marking the third straight day of walkouts by students in Humboldt County following allegations of a sexual assault by a Fortuna High School student in August. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Hundreds of Arcata High School students walked out of class Wednesday to show support and stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault, marking the third straight day of walkouts by students in Humboldt County following allegations of a sexual assault by a Fortuna High School student in August.

For the third consecutive day, students walked off a high school campus in Humboldt County on Wednesday to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and protest what they feel are inadequate administrative and societal responses.

Hundreds of Arcata High School students descended on the Arcata Plaza yesterday morning, many clad in white or holding signs emblazoned with slogans like "no means no." They then listened as student after student came forward to share stories of sexual assault and sexualized trauma. The walkout followed similar ones sat Eureka, Fortuna and McKinleyville high schools Monday and at South Fork High School and Academy of the Redwoods on Tuesday.

The week of walkouts follows Southern Humboldt reporter Kym Kemp's report Sunday of a Fortuna High School student's allegation she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student in August during a party at Centerville Beach — an allegation currently under investigation by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office — and the student's feeling that the school had failed to take appropriate action after the alleged assault was reported.

Local photographer Mark McKenna was on scene yesterday to document the Arcata High School walkout, which included hundreds of students and spanned several hours. See his photos below.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Rapid COVID-19 Tests in Short Supply in California

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2021 at 6:26 AM

Maria Jimenez swabs her 7 year old daughter, Glendy Perez, for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25, 2021. - PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters
  • Maria Jimenez swabs her 7 year old daughter, Glendy Perez, for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25, 2021.
Sarah Voit likes to keep 10 to 15 rapid test kits on hand in case any of the residents of the Family Emergency Shelter Coalition in Hayward need to be tested for COVID-19. They’ve had some infection scares, and the antigen tests — which return results in minutes — have been crucial to curbing the virus in the family shelter.

But in recent weeks, the staff has struggled to purchase enough rapid test kits. The local Walgreens and Costco have started limiting sales to one per customer. “We ran into the same issue at the beginning of the pandemic when we were trying to buy Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer,” said Voit, the shelter’s program director.

Three weeks ago, a child living at the shelter was sent home from school after a classmate contracted COVID-19. Voit’s team used the rapid tests on the whole family. They all came back positive.

“Because we had those kits on hand, we were able to send them immediately to the isolation and quarantine hotel the county runs,” she said. “Otherwise it could have taken three to five days to get those results and many more families could have gotten sick.”

A nearby clinic offers COVID-19 tests, but only PCR tests, which usually take several days for results. Even a single day’s wait could fuel an outbreak among the shelter’s 23 adults and children.

“If a resident really needs a test, we can send them there,” Voit said, “but the three to five days is tough to wait.”

Voit managed to find an online supplier and ordered 70 kits for the shelter, but they aren’t coming anytime soon: The delivery date is a month out.

Online and in stores, major retailers are sold out of the popular at-home tests, and medical supply vendors can’t find enough rapid test kits for schools, shelters, nursing homes, employers and other groups. Across the state, people in low-income communities are being turned away as community groups and clinics are forced to ration their tests. Workers in need of regular screening for employment struggle to find them.

Some parents are spending hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket to test their school kids. And nursing homes are told they may have to wait weeks for testing kits. “The U.S. gets a D- when it comes to testing,” said John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley. “We’re not doing enough of it and it’s too difficult for people to get tests. Those with the least resources have the greatest difficulty in finding a free test site or purchasing at-home testing.”

“Those with the least resources have the greatest difficulty in finding a free test site or purchasing at-home testing.”

Dr. John Swartzberg, UC Berkeley

Experts say quick and easy testing is vital to contain the spread of COVID-19. Without widespread access to tests, people don’t know they are infected and need to quarantine, causing outbreaks that could have been prevented.

“There should be little stations where you can get rapid tests anywhere, anytime,” said Joe DeRisi, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UC San Francisco.

Rapid test kit shortages abound

It’s a mismatch of supply and demand. Although the state is reporting record-high testing numbers, Californians seeking same-day results and over-the-counter test kits for sniffling kids, employer verification, or merely peace of mind say they are unavailable. The problem: Nearly all state-run testing facilities offer only laboratory-based PCR tests, and people want rapid ones instead.

When the Delta variant reared its head, the shortage of rapid tests created the “perfect storm,” experts say. The surge coincided with schools reopening and employers requiring quick, routine testing. At the same time, local health departments scaled back their testing efforts, focusing on vaccinations instead. Manufacturers, seeing decreased summer demand, reportedly shuttered production lines and tossed unsold product.

Fewer than 10% of testing locations across the state now offer rapid-result antigen tests, according to a database from Coders Against COVID and URISA GISCorps.

The test shortage is so severe that the federal government has stepped in to increase production. On Sept. 9, the Biden Administration announced a national COVID-19 action plan that includes the purchase of 280 million rapid point-of-care and over-the-counter tests by the federal government and a three-month deal with Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell the tests at cost.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests inquiring how many rapid tests would be allocated to California.

Flourish logoA Flourish chart

Industry experts say manufacturers, including Abbott Laboratories, are picking up production, but adequate supplies have yet to hit the shelves for consumers — and it could be weeks off.

“We have been told by this particular manufacturer that they’ve caught up, but clearly at the customer level we still see shortages, and of course customers are shifting to other brands which cascade the shortage elsewhere,” said Nam Tran, professor of clinical pathology at UC Davis and a member of the state’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force.

Despite the slightly lower sensitivity of rapid tests compared to laboratory-based PCR ones, the ease of the at-home options make them ideal for community surveillance, DeRisi said. PCR tests can detect lower levels of virus and potentially catch an infection sooner, but the reality is the inconvenience of scheduling an appointment means people aren’t getting tested enough.

“I could get a PCR, but that’s just a snapshot in time,” Tran said. “If you want people to test every day, (PCR) is not feasible.”

About 90% of all PCR test results are returned in two days, according to state data, although that time has steadily crept upward recently. The 15 minutes of wait for a home rapid test compared to 48 hours could mean the difference between an infectious person starting quarantine immediately versus spreading the virus for several days.

And it’s clear that rapid testing works.

Fewer than 10 percent of testing locations across the state now offer rapid-result antigen tests.

The Mariposa skilled nursing facility that Katrina Anderson manages hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 among its frail residents since the beginning of the pandemic.

In addition to other strict infection control policies, every person that enters the building is given a rapid test.

“If you come to work in our facility you’re tested. If you come to fix something that’s broken in the facility, you’re tested,” Anderson said. “Nobody enters without getting a rapid test.”

Anderson received word from the state that tests were in short supply. She was able to secure enough kits for the next few weeks. But other organizations, like schools and community groups, attempting to set up rapid testing through the California Department of Public Healthmay not be so lucky. The Testing Task Force website warns that it will take six to eight weeks to receive the state’s rapid test kits.

Schools desperate for test supplies

In March, the state offered 5 million BinaxNOW tests to schools as an optional incentive to reopen in the spring.

Rapid testing is a major strategy for schools eager to avoid kids’ time spent out of the classroom sick or in quarantine. But the state program has been swamped with orders, and some schools say PCR testing is their only reliable option right now.

State public health officials told Kern High School District in Bakersfield “that there is a nationwide shortage of antigen/rapid tests,” said Erin Briscoe-Clarke, a district spokesperson. So the school is using PCR tests instead despite the longer wait time for results.

DeRisi from UCSF said he heard that “hundreds of schools” signed up in September for the state tests, “right when the shortage occurred and right when the Delta bump hit.”

The state Department of Public Health did not return requests for comment about its ability to fill schools’ orders.


Officials at the Clovis Unified School District northeast of Fresno said they have struggled to secure enough rapid tests for their 43,000 students. In addition to required masking and daily health screenings, the schools there routinely test students involved in extracurricular activities and are gearing up to begin testing faculty weekly. The schools also shorten the 10-day quarantine period by three days if a student can prove they are COVID-negative.

But the Clovis district was notified earlier this month that the state may not be able to fill its test kit order, spokesperson Kelly Avants said. “We got our order in and heard within a day or two that the state was no longer accepting additional orders because they were out,” Avants said.

Early this month, the Clovis district contacted more than 40 vendors in search of rapid test kits. Nobody had any in stock and wouldn’t until at least October, maybe even December. Eventually, the state was able to fulfill the district’s order.

“Like so many other supply chains right now, it is unpredictable,” Avants said.

“We got our order in and heard within a day or two that the state was no longer accepting additional (test kit) orders because they were out.”

Kelly Avants, Clovis Unified School District

The district has about a two-week supply of tests, and expects a delivery of 12,800 more from a private vendor soon.

Without rapid testing readily available publicly, some parents are spending hundreds of dollars to monitor their kids’ health.

Nayamin Martinez, a parent in Clovis Unified, received an email several weeks ago that a child in her daughter’s classroom tested positive for COVID-19.

It was a Friday afternoon, and the family’s local Kaiser testing clinic was closed. Even with insurance, Martinez couldn’t find a rapid test kit or same-day appointment anywhere. She also knew that results from a PCR test wouldn’t come until the following Monday or Tuesday and didn’t want to keep her daughter out of school needlessly.

Martinez wound up taking her to urgent care and paying $270 for the rapid test — and her peace of mind.

Hundreds of testing sites shut down

The California Department of Public Health says there’s a glut of PCR testing capacity. Thousands of same-day appointments for the tests are available through the state testing website, and more tests are processed daily now than during the winter surge. OptumServe, which manages the state’s testing efforts, works with the state to monitor demand and offer drive-thru, mobile and fixed site options, health officials told CalMatters.

Yet many Californians complain that they can’t find an appointment or a rapid test. The issue: As government-run mass testing sites have closed, it’s not always clear to people where new locations have sprung up.

“You end up with barriers to access that have less to do with capacity and more to do with lack of information,” said Dr. Jorge Caballeros, a physician and founder of Coders Against COVID, a volunteer group that crowdsources a directory of test sites nationally.

“More of the testing has shifted from a government-based or public health service and become privatized. A lot has shifted to primary care physicians, health systems and to companies that are running these tests,” he said.

According to the Coders Against COVID database, 900 testing sites have closed in California since April 2020, and that’s likely an undercount.

A rapid antigen COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance Covid-19 testing in San Rafael on Sept. 25, 2021. Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters
A rapid antigen COVID-19 test is used on patients at Canal Alliance’s test site in San Rafael. Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters

Working-class and immigrant communities that often face technological or language barriers are struggling with the shifting test locations and longer turnaround times. Community organizations have been left to fill the gaps with what little supplies they have left.

“We’re still the only organization in Marin County that’s doing rapid testing for free, and I don’t understand why,” said Yolanda Oviedo, COVID-19 response manager at Canal Alliance. “It’s been really hard for us to maintain.”

Canal Alliance, which provides an array of services for the Latino community in Marin, offers rapid testing two days a week.

The pandemic hit the county’s Latino population hard. Latinos accounted for 80% of the county’s COVID-19 cases last year despite making up less than 16% of the population. Most are essential workers with high risks of exposure.

Oviedo said the group received 5,000 test kits from the state in May and have used more than 3,000. Demand has grown since August, and they have resorted to limiting testing to 100 people per day in order to make supplies last as long as possible.

People seeking tests at the site are frequently turned away. It’s a tough decision, especially when they know community members are desperate, said Marina Palma, San Rafael City Schools board member and volunteer at Canal Alliance.

“We have people coming to test with us from Richmond, Petaluma, Novato, San Francisco,” Palma said.

“When I heard we were capping (tests), I asked ‘Why don’t you order more?’ They said ‘There’s no more to order. They’re on backlog.’”

Nayamin Martinez, Central California Environmental Justice Network

Increasingly employers, like Amtrak and Goldman Sachs, are requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, and many workers can’t afford to miss a day of work.

“When you go to other places, it takes two days for the results. Two days means a lot for those families who work labor,” Palma said. “If they don’t have that verification, they can’t support their families.”

It’s a similar story in the Central Valley, where Martinez, the Clovis parent, is the executive director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network. Her organization, which partnered with UC Davis, is the only place in Yolo, Stanislaus, Madera and Fresno counties offering rapid tests.

Several weeks ago they, too, started capping the tests at 100 per day.

“When I heard we were capping (tests), I asked ‘Why don’t you order more?’ They said ‘There’s no more to order. They’re on backlog,’” Martinez said.

Many of the people they test have Medi-Cal or are uninsured, and are unable to get appointments at local health clinics. Routine testing for employers isn’t necessarily covered by insurance.

Every day around 5 a.m., people start calling Martinez, desperately searching for a free test. “It’s bureaucracies after bureaucracies. It’s exhausting,” she said.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.
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Monday, September 27, 2021

Students Stage Walkouts on Three Local Campuses to Support Sexual Assault Survivors

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2021 at 2:09 PM

McKinleyville High School students march down Central Avenue after walking out of class in solidarity with victims of sexual assault. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • McKinleyville High School students march down Central Avenue after walking out of class in solidarity with victims of sexual assault.

Students walked out of class on at least three Humboldt County high school campuses this morning to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

Most wearing white and many holding signs, students at Fortuna, Eureka and McKinleyville high schools participated in the planned walkouts, with Fortuna and McKinleyville students marching the streets surrounding their campuses.

The walkouts come after two separate reports of sexual assault — one involving students at Fortuna High School and the other involving students of another local high school. In a story published yesterday, Kym Kemp, an independent local reporter based in Southern Humboldt, details the story of a 15-year-old Fortuna High School student who says she was sexually assaulted by a drunken fellow student who is on the football team shortly after midnight Aug. 8 during a party at Centerville Beach, leaving her “sobbing.”

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Yurok Tribe Nabs $30 Million Education Grant

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2021 at 3:53 PM

The Yurok Tribe was awarded a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods to create a regional five-year effort for a "cradle-school-career pathway project" that will build programs and support services for students in Del Norte County. 

“The Yurok Education Department is excited about what this grant means for our families, our students and the community as a whole. In partnership with the True North Organizing Network, Del Norte schools, First-5, Del Norte Child Care Council and other local entities, we will build sustainable supports, services and programs that help our students succeed as they make their way from pre-kindergarten to college to a satisfying professional career,” said Jim McQuillen, Yurok Education Department director. "I look forward to establishing the high-quality learning opportunities our students need and deserve."

The DOE’s Promise Neighborhoods grant aims to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in distressed communities and to transform those communities.

The grant will be paid over the next five years in the amount of $5,999,644 annually.

The Klamath River Promise Neighborhood looks to bring together tribes, schools, the Del Norte Unified School District and county office of education, community-based organizations, institutes of higher education, local government and parent and resident groups, who intend to improve educational, health and developmental outcomes for children by building a continuum of solutions centered around great schools in Del Norte County and adjacent tribal lands.

North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman applauded the grant award.

"It’s inspiring to see folks across the region come together under the goal of improving students’ lives to secure this grant," he said in a press release. "Del Norte County is one of the most economically disadvantaged regions in my district, but with this funding we can ensure children are healthy, have the tools they need for a successful education, and can go on to have fulfilling careers to support themselves, their communities and Tribes.”

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