Key Points about Health Reform

(Based on a 1.5 hour training with CTA. I will be getting more training, but here is the ESSENTIAL information right now)

-There is a mathematical definition for what is AFFORDABLE: Employers are only obligated to offer an AFFORDABLE plan for its employees, not for families. Dependents will be able to get affordable coverage through the exchange.

-An Affordable Employer Package is one that costs less than or equal to 9.5% of your wage. Since all VTA members who choose health coverage are covered fully, our district offers affordable care for us.

-This may not be the case for classified. Because classified employees pay 20% of their own health care costs and typically they are lower wage earners, the District may not be offering them “affordable” health care.

-If the District does not offer EVERY employee “affordable” care, then the DISTRICT could incur penalties: $3000 per employee that gets health care through the exchange AND receives a federal subsidy (help with paying their health care costs). If you don’t qualify for a subsidy and decide to get health coverage for yourself under the exchange, the District would not incur a penalty for you.

-To be eligible for a FEDERAL SUBSIDY in the Health Exchange, you must have household income less than 400% of the FEDERAL POVERTY LINE. Most of our members will probably not fit into this category, but some might. If a fairly new teacher with dependents is the only wage earner for his/her household, then his/her family may be eligible for subsidies.

-The Health Exchange should be up and running by October with coverage beginning January 1, 2014.

-Our CalPERS plans (Kaiser and Blue Shield) are really low-copay plans. I went looking on the Kaiser and Blue Shield Websites and couldn’t find copays as low as ours. They also offer plans with deductibles. It is almost like they have set up “mini-exchanges” of plans to get ready for the CA Health Exchange (bronze, silver, gold and platinum choices).

-YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE EXCHANGE TO DO SOME SHOPPING AROUND! My spouse Ron rarely goes to the doctor and doesn’t have any prescriptions. We are currently shopping Kaiser for a plan with larger copays. This may save us money until we can shop in the Health Exchange this fall.

-I CAN DROP MY SPOUSE FROM MEDICAL COVERAGE and HE WILL STILL BE COVERED UNDER DENTAL AND VISION!!!! This is true for any and all dependents and those who choose in lieu instead of medical coverage. Every member and dependent gets dental and vision covered by the District (all that money comes out of our $4.25 million cap).

-Brenda Hensley

Resolution in support of the teachers at Garfield High School

This resolution was supported, unanimously, by the Vacaville Teachers Association Representative Council on February 5th, 2013.



To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater “accountability” in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.



Standardized testing is consuming an ever-growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly two billion dollars.  Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million on standardized testing.  These tests are not a one hour or one day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time. In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year.



In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested. With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform “miracles” in the process. Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.



As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student’s intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results is attributable to factors OTHER than the teacher. So-called “value-added” models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance.



In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores. While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support.


We, the Vacaville Teachers Association, stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.


Michelle Rhee is charming, but where is her evidence?

By Ernest Kimme/ – TheReporter.Com

I find it so irritating when you know in advance that you will despise a person, yet when you finally meet them, they turn out to be articulate and funny and they make a lot of sense.
Michelle Rhee led the Washington, D.C., schools for three turbulent years. The schools were in bad shape. Only 50 percent of students graduated, most students were at least one grade level behind, and the district was burning through money.
Her job was to turn things around, and she was brutal. She immediately fired 36 poorly performing principals, 120 office staff, and closed 23 schools. She then turned to the teachers: Good teachers (love those standardized tests!) got big bonuses. Poor teachers — 250 of them — were fired.
She got results. Test scores in most subjects improved, graduation rates improved and enrollment increased.
However, people — even if they say they want it — do not like rapid change.
The teachers union was incensed. Parents near the closed schools were frustrated. Community leaders organized protests about her authoritarian style. In 2010, she was fired.
I listened to her as part of the Sacramento Speakers Series (highly recommended). She started by saying that teachers are the most important part of our education system. Then she asked, who speaks for the students in those classes with poor teachers?
She has started StudentsFirst, advocating education reform. She has pushed for weaker tenure laws, to make it easier to get rid of poor teachers. She believes teachers should be evaluated in many ways, including student scores on standardized tests.
Most controversially, she has spoken in favor of vouchers. Why, she asks, should a child be denied a good education, simply because the nearest good school happens to be private? Waiting for poor teachers to improve or mediocre schools to improve simply means, in her view, that those children spend several years getting a sub-par education.
It is hard to disagree with her. She is charming and sensical. She is a mother concerned about her children. She simply wants her children — as do we all — to have the best teachers and the best schools.
The devil is in the details. For example, we know that standardized tests do not paint a complete picture of a student’s learning. Yet Ms. Rhee used those scores to determine good and bad teachers.
So how do you identify good teachers? What are good teaching practices? What do good principals do? How do students really learn? What part do parents have in their student’s education?
There are real, fact-based answers to all of these questions, but we rarely see them. They are too occluded by opinions, half-truths and politics, even from charming and articulate mothers.

Help Defeat Michelle Rhee!

Brothers and Sisters:

The Washington Teachers Association in West Sacramento is in a fight for its life! Charter advocate and West Sacramento Mayor, Christopher Cabaldon, and anti-teacher, anti-union advocate, Michelle Rhee, are fielding a candidate (Frank Castillo, Communications Director for Students First) to run for Washington Unified School Board in West Sacramento. This election could give them and their agenda control of the board! It’s currently a 2-2 split between teacher-friendly members and Cabaldon/Rhee advocates.


Ballots go out this week, and we are having a campaign kick-off walk this Saturday. Please join us for the walk and inform your members of the event. We need a flood of teachers and public school advocates on the street. I have included a side-by-side flier we are using in our internal organizing that might be helpful to you.

Call WTA PAC Chair, Don Stauffer at (916) 371-0882 to get involved or email at!

The school board mixer is TONIGHT!

Would you like to meet school board trustees David McCallum, Sherie Mahlberg, Michael Kitzes and/or Teri Nutt tomorrow? Stop by Blondies Bar and Grill at 555 Main Street (the old Creekside Cafe) to share what’s on your mind. The meeting will follow our rep council, so, building reps, just hang around!

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