School is about to start, but Bay Area teachers’ unions and districts still can’t agree on key details for online learning

Aug 9, 2020 by

What the school day looks like for California’s 6 million students will depend on what comes out of largely secret labor talks between unions and district officials.

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Frustrated Bay Area families already know classes will be online when school starts in the coming weeks, but many still have no idea when their K-12 students will have to log on for lessons or how many hours of live instruction they would get.

That’s because districts are still hammering out those details with teachers unions and, in many cases, those negotiations are tense if not near an impasse, even though school starts for some in 10 days.

These agreements will dictate what teachers are expected to do when it comes to distance learning, how many hours they will be expected to work each day and how much time will be spent on live instructions, among many other working conditions.

The details are of huge interest to parents, many of whom work at least eight-hour days, but saw teachers in some districts required to work four- or five-hour days in the spring, although many worked far more. A typical day pre-pandemic was 7½ hours. That meant teachers technically had less time for planning, live instruction, small group classes and homework grading.

Above: People rally for education in San Rafael. District by district, there are negotiations with teacher unions over terms of work, and in some places there are impasses with school, for some, starting in 10 days. Left: Mariah Fisher demonstrates, assisted by children (from left) Abby and Ellie.

In many districts, these negotiations are behind closed doors, with details secret until an agreement is reached. It means parents and educators will have to wait until the deal is done before they know what to expect from a typical school day.

With no mandates in California setting specific distance learning standards, each district is on its own to decide. In some, unions are calling for five-hour work days. In others, districts are calling for the previously agreed upon 7½ hours. In Oakland, where the union proposal is public, labor leaders want to set a maximum two-hour daily time limits on live instruction, while district officials are pushing for more.

Such disparities among districts could push disadvantaged students further behind, experts say, with wealthier parents able to supplement any deficiencies in a remote education with tutors or in-person instruction in small pandemic pods.

“It definitely worries me,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland nonprofit in education advocacy. “Right now, I think there’s a lot of inconsistency across the state.”

California schools already saw inconsistency in the spring.

San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland were among districts reducing teacher workdays officially to four hours in labor agreements amended after schools closed in March. Union officials cited personal issues for many teachers in advocating for the shortened work day.

Mill Valley’s distance learning labor deal banned the requirement of live video instruction with students, although many teachers did it anyway.

Source: School is about to start, but Bay Area teachers’ unions and districts still can’t agree on key details for online learning – SFGate

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