by Jim Trageser
American Reporter Reader
San Diego, Calif.
March 16, 2005
BERSIN HAS NEVER KOWTOWED
SAN DIEGO -- While Jill Stewart's commentary, "The Left's Deficit Plan for Latinos," made some good points about the way California's public schools address educating immigrant students, it was undermined by a glaring factual error.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Alan Bersin has never "kowtowed" to the teachers union, as Stewart contends. In fact, Bersin has repeatedly - and at great personal cost - stood up to the teachers union in his demands that the SDUSD put as many resources into educating low-income and Latino students as it does into educating white, suburban college-prep students. Bersin's effort has cost him his job, as a new, pro-union school board majority has voted to terminate Bersin's contract early.
A former pro-union school board member regularly resorted to calling Bersin, a longtime Democratic Party activist and practicing Jew, a "Nazi" for his efforts to emphasize educating traditionally underachieving demographics. Former board member Frances O'Neill Zimmerman also condescendingly referred to Bersin's English literacy proposals as a "remedial gulag," reflecting the views of her union constituency which was much more interested in teaching college-oriented white kids than in worrying about social advancement of Latinos.
If San Diego's black and Latino students have lost their champion in Bersin, his efforts have not gone completely unnoticed. The left-leaning Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation underwrote many of the reforms Bersin tried to introduce to San Diego's public schools. But with a politically savage teachers union undermining every effort to bring San Diego's minority students up to speed, those efforts never really had a chance.
It is heartening to know that in some districts, teachers, administrators and parents are willing to work together to invest in educating ALL students. It is even more heartening to know, as Stewart reports, that those efforts pay real, human dividends.
One wonders what it will take for San Diego's teachers union to take to heart the necessity of educating all our children, not just the ones who are easy to teach.