The teachers union has thrown its support to a new policy that encourages biliteracy in San Diego Unified — and used it as a springboard to raise some questions about teacher workloads, a sticking point in its negotiations for a new contract this year.

In a letter to the school board last week, union president Camille Zombro wrote that the union supports the policy as “a welcomed attempt to bring SDUSD back to the forefront of language learning and bilingual education.” But it also raises “several critical questions” about workload. Zombro wrote:

  • The proposal includes a considerable amount of new training for teachers. When will the training take place? Will it replace existing training?
  • The proposal also adds new assessments, technology, and data tracking requirements. How will the District ensure that these new requirements will not add more work to the already busy schedule of educators?
  • Has the District weighed this plan against other district-wide initiatives? How will the District prioritize varying initiatives and plans to ensure that this new program does not unduly burden bilingual educators?

Zombro argued that this is an example of a case in which maintenance of standards, a controversial union proposal, would come into play. Maintenance of standards “would not alter or prohibit the biliteracy policy now under consideration. It would, however, necessitate that administration consider the net impact of such a policy, prior to implementation.” She dubbed it “a teachable moment.”

The question of how maintenance of standards would impact schools is still debated. You might remember from my article on bargaining that a few experts found it alarming, while school districts that had already adopted it said it wasn’t a dealbreaker:

In North Syracuse Central School District, union leaders said the clause doesn’t give them a veto over school plans and the human resources director said the rule hasn’t been disputed in over a decade.

“The administration can’t just make a decision and move forward,” Director of Human Resources Annette Speach said, adding, “Change will occur, but change will occur at a slower pace, hopefully with more buy-in from teachers.”

But several outside experts who reviewed the proposal by San Diego teachers say the wording floated by the union is too vague and could prove problematic later. Paul Kersey, director of labor policy for the free market Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, called it “very sweeping language” that would make almost anything subject to a grievance.


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