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Daniel Weintraub: Schools chief sails toward stormy seas (California)
Sacramento Bee ^ | July 24, 2005 | Daniel Weintraub

Posted on 07/24/2005 6:19:54 AM PDT by calcowgirl

After seven years as the innovative and sometimes abrasive leader of California's second largest school district, Alan Bersin was run out of San Diego by the teachers' union. But you might say he landed on his feet. Bersin is now the education secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Bersin is a lifelong Democrat, a graduate of Harvard College, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He is a Yale-trained lawyer who worked as the border enforcement chief for the U.S. Department of Justice before serving as U.S. attorney in San Diego, and he was one of several non-educators to be hired to run large urban districts in recent years, including those in New York and Los Angeles.

His immediate task for Schwarzenegger will be trying to make sense of an array of state programs designed to intervene in schools whose students are failing to make progress. Currently the state is directing more than $300 million a year in extra funding to these schools and is preparing to either take over or change the leadership at more than 100 campuses around the state.

Bersin believes that the most important thing the state can do is to find ways to attract and retain better teachers in tough schools, fixing what he calls a "mal-distribution of quality teaching."

Typically, young and inexperienced teachers find openings at schools in neighborhoods serving poor and minority children. When they gain experience, they move elsewhere, where they can earn the same amount or more to deal with students who face fewer distractions and have stronger family support.

To keep the best teachers where they are needed most, Bersin believes, they need more support and higher pay. But many union contracts make it difficult, if not impossible, to pay teachers in one school more than those in another.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: alanbersin; bersin; caleducation; education; meritpay
Bersin, who comes from what he calls a "union-friendly family," recognizes that it is the unions' job to defend the pay and working conditions of their members. But in the public schools, the goal is not to protect jobs and perks but to educate kids.
1 posted on 07/24/2005 6:19:56 AM PDT by calcowgirl
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