Cut Costs and Improve Life in California: Kill BTSA Now!

California’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program, or BTSA, is one of the least loved beginning teacher experiences in California. Like most liberal programs, BTSA’s name is doublespeak, the reality and the adjectival title are stark opposites. BTSA is the brain child of the University of California’s “educational research, but research does not show BTSA supports beginning teachers. Instead, quality assurance is based on an expensive series of annual conferences and peer reviews (see: Program Evaluation and Accountability).

Anecdotal evidence (abundant on blogs) suggests just the opposite. BTSA is a jobs program for university faculty, administrators in training, and senior teachers. The evaluative process, the certification process, and the support processes are all redundant systems. Not many beginning teachers would pay for this “service” (see also BTSA is…). Killing BTSA saves money and improves the lives of countless new faculty members in K-12 classrooms. This though, is not happening. In the twilight zone of California government, the funding for the “support” is being used for books, but the BTSA requirements for credentialing remain. There is even talk of charging new teachers fees for the privilege of participating in this boondoggle.

BTSA, like much else in California’s educational system, is a top down program. PhD’s, and wannabe administrators who have been working most of their adult lives to escape the K-12 classroom, are in charge of future classroom teachers. The genuine support, as it does in most of life, happens for free. New teachers make friends who teach them the ropes or they don’t. Teachers share lesson plans or they don’t. The faculty generates department standards for excellence or they don’t. Hence, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, part of the massive K-12, 40 billion dollar education budget, is a place for far more than the proposed 10% across the board cuts, for it is a perfect place to cut government to improve lifestyle. This is a place for draconian cuts. This part of the budget can be reformed so that it all but pays for itself.

Most K-12 teachers would be shocked to know that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing actually draws 32 to 33 million dollars a year in funding from K-12 education. That’s because most teachers have direct experience with this agency as a blood-sucking fee machine. In fact, the licensing, testing, and credentialing fees do generate 21 million dollars a year while the actual hard work of fingerprinting, collating extensive teacher applications, and issuing certifications accurately costs only 9 million dollars. The 12 million surplus should be able to run the California Parks Service, but no, the Professional Services and the Professional Practices divisions cost tax payers 45 million dollars a year. Hence, the California Commission’s yearly drain on the general fund.

The Professional Practices Services Division is the Commission’s legal division. It’s packed with lawyers. The income producing part of the Commission had about seventy employees, now they are down to sixty-five. That was the “across the board cut of ten percent.” These sixty-five employees run their office at about $136,000 per person. The offices the lawyers run cost about $227,000 per person. Surely, Practices Division can run with four or five fewer attorneys. Fire the ones with the greatest seniority. They have the highest salaries and they delegate most of their work to underlings anyhow. Plainly, the State ought to cut more lawyers. This is the sort of fired worker that still saves California money after he is unemployed. Most low wage workers, like the folks that do the fingerprinting in Certifications, cost the state almost as much in unemployment insurance, renters’ assistance, and food stamps as they do to employ. This, however, is not true of the lawyer. Firing a lawyer is actually a net gain for the state. The only mitigating circumstance is that an unemployed lawyer runs a serious risk of getting involved politics. The added expenses of imprisoning a lawyer who has turned to such white collar crime, or worse, not catching his criminal activities, may, in the end, outweigh the temporary fiscal budgetary gains of terminating his or her services. One last caveat: although both the Certifications Division and the Practices Division took a 10% personnel cut in 2008-2009, the projected cost of each office is up again in the 2009-2010 budget.

Really, the Division that sinks the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is Professional Services. The thirty-three employees of this division spend 40 million dollars of California Taxpayer monies annually. The offices in this division cost over 1 million dollars per employee. Of course, unlike the revenue producing Credentialing Division, or the bloated legal division, the one million dollars per employee is not related directly to individual salaries. These State workers distribute funding. But to whom? It is hard, of course, to tell what bureaucrats don’t do for their money by the literature they produce explaining their work. Still, to this much the Division of Professional Service will confess (without the use of water boarding): “The Professional Services Division is responsible for the development of licensure standards for all credential areas for which the Commission issues credentials.” If California is serious about cutting budgets, so serious that the legislature wants to raise the sales tax, issue debt, and fire health care workers, can it not simply leave the standards from last year in place for a while? California should lay off sixty percent of the people involved in assessment. Their salaries are significant. They have PhDs, are committed to fighting global warming, and are some of the few with minds that can truly understand that the Spotted Marsh Mouse is more important than most people. To any self-respecting state bureaucracy, these folks are worth any three lawyers and any fifteen or twenty teachers, especially teachers so lowly that they are still seeking certification. Still, as valuable as these members of society are, California should release them and their fantastic intellects to do more meaningful things.

Again, where the Professional Services Division describes its work as: “the development and implementation of licensing examinations as required in the Education Code” there is room for draconian cuts. Mix and match eighty-five percent more of the past test questions for a while and reduce the internal validity assessments. If teachers start teaching that the Darwin theory, especially regarding natural selection, is antiquated or that the Democrats have plagiarized large sections of the Communist Manifesto in the party platform (page 6 last paragraph), then, then California educators might have a problem. Until then, trust the previous tests. They are absurdly irrelevant enough. No one will teach a clear thought in a public school for at least another half a century. The testing development people worry too much. California could fire sixty percent in this department and sleep better as well.

Where the Professional Services Division spends the real money is in “the administration of state-funded programs including the Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program, the Alternative Certification/Intern Program, and in conjunction with the Department of Education, the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program. Related activities include data collection, reporting, and policy research.”

These funds are distributed to local school districts for use in small, localized programs, the merits of which are very difficult to assess. Certainly, even if there were no budget crisis, the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program should be axed. Right now the program is clinging to funding. The 2009-2010 grants have been made Tier 3. That is, Local Educational Agencies (school districts) may redirect the BTSA grant funds to areas of need. But this is not enough. The legislated BTSA requirements for credentialing must be expunged. It is an outrage that the highly paid experts that have administered this debacle still have jobs in this cost sensitive environment.

The fact is that most beginning teachers would pay good money to avoid this service. Why not let them. Let them pay $200.00 to avoid the service entirely. See how many actually would. That’s research. Better yet, do an auction. With fifty new teachers in the room, auction off twenty BTSA free credentials. See how despised this program truly is. If there ever were any beneficial aspects of BTSA, they emerged from good teacher education programs already in existence, programs that are already part of teacher’s credentialing process. If recruitment and retention of high quality teachers is still California’s goal, these programs should all be dissolved and the funds used to reduce class size or increase teacher salaries.

8 thoughts on “Cut Costs and Improve Life in California: Kill BTSA Now!

  1. First of let me atand up out of my chair and give you the biggest hug and amen I can. Wow you took the words out of my mouth. I am in year 2 of BTSA & well i speak my mind so they do not like me there. Anyways, if a teacher does not know how to make a lesson plan by the time they make it this far, well then they do not need to be kept… each project they make you do (3 in two years) is like 15 or more pages. I am a good teacher I have my faults granted, but I know I am doing a good job, but I can tell you what they are having me do is to be put pure and simple ” A DOG & PONY SHOW” I have a Masters Degree in Education and that gets me $500 to $1000 a year more…hhhmmm my studetns loans are around $70K…..If the goverment wants to retain teachers, “KILL” BTSA and give the money to the teachers or find a way to pay their loans off. I know many teachers who have quit teaching, because they do not make enought o pay their studetn loan payments….I can not wait till the end of this year and i “clear” my credential so I can put the truth on my exit evaluation form (you could not be frank last year-1st year, because…suprise, suprise they make you put your name on…..hmmm guess they do not the real feedback going to the big-wigs) agian, amen to your thoughts!!!!!

  2. ok well my brain is in the off mode I guess and as I look at my posting, I laugh….I tell my kids to proof read, but this topic gets me so fired up, I did not lead by example, so sorry for all those typos. My point is still the same with or without typos….KILL, KILL, KILL…..BTSA

  3. Janah says:

    BTSA is a nightmare and the people that support it suck also. I just need to vent. I have been working at the same district for the past 6 yrs, going on my 7th year and only getting paid on the 6th year scale because I taught Independent Studies for a year. And that is where the BTSA nightmare begins. I was first told that I could not do BTSA because I taught IS; I just wanted to clear my credential. Finally in the middle of November I was told I could do it, but I was starting late (very late) and I was pregnant. My BTSA provider already had another guy and they were at the same sight, so the other guy was getting his stuff done, while I was suffering and could not get my stuff completed. During the whole year 2 I did not get any help and had only complete maybe 20% of that stupid krap. Also, it was my second year teaching (my first being an intern. They said I needed to do BTSA yr 1 at the same time I did my internship; is that dumb or what) and besides all of that I gave birth early 5 weeks (at the tale end of the school year). The following school year I got a new teaching job in the district at a PI and displine problem school. At the time I was PPD also. It was the worse school year every, and no one in the district checked on my knowing that I did not finish BTSA. The following year I contacted the new BTSA coordinater at our district to get help in completing the stupid thing, and she said I was trying to contact you. She was not and I know it. She did not want to help me and all she wanted to do was hand me over to the county OE. When I called she said bring in what you have (“make it look professional, I don’t have a lot of time”), and bring in a check. Well I was stressed! I knew that what I had was crap, it wasn’t complete or professional, so I did not go. And tried the BTSA cooridnator again, and again I got shot down. I got so desperate that I contacted the BTSA cord. from the year I did it and she said she would go through everything with me and tell me what I needed to do. And the day we met guess who showed, the currect BTSA cord. (Know she wanted to help). After that meeting I knew what I needed to complete. Did I mention that my BTSA provider left the district and lost paper work. Anyways, it took me over a year and a half, almost 2 years to complete what was missing by myself, without help from the district or a provider. My credential expired in July and I turned that BTSA stuff in at the end of June to the county and they are still reviewing it. The director told me that the quality of the work is questionable. But I am pissed. I know people that did less work, that added attachments, had a BTSA Provider that did not flake and it cleared with the district, but the county is dragging its feet and making me correct things and do things that won’t clear with them, but cleared at the district level. On top of the CCTC is slow in extending my prelim credential and school starts next week. I am a wreck, upset, 6 months pregnant, and I am stressing to the max because of stupid BTSA. This stupid cloud is on my head and the only thing that is keeping me in check is my faith. I just want this over with. BTSA does not help new teachers, it lets them down. It is the same stuff you did in your credentialing program and is a waste of time because there is not time to do it in. Either you are teaching, or in meetings, or in trainings, ect. There is not time for anything. BTSA is a stress and a cancer on the teaching profession.

    • paulbenedict7 says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about what I knew, myself as a totally redundant nightmare. Where is the teacher’s union? Nowhere. Why? Becuause driving new teacher’s out of education makes senior teachers more able to negotiate pay raises. The ends justify the means. I’d withold my dues, but there is a law against that.

  4. Scott Dailey says:

    “Where is the teacher’s union?”

    I asked that myself; so I called CTA today, to see what their stance regarding BTSA was.

    Their response was…surreal. BTSA? Problems with BTSA? All the new teachers love BTSA, nothing but positive feedback. You, sir, are practically the first to cast a disparaging word against the program.

    I was left speechless.

    • paulbenedict7 says:

      There are a lot of problems in education. The union surrendered on this a long time ago. They think it looks good to the public. Let the newbies suck it up for the good of the order.

      The problem is that like every other government program in California it’s a joke, a charade.

  5. Sonia says:

    Can anyone tell me exactly how much the state spends on BTSA (and other BTSA-like programs) each year? I can’t find this information anywhere. I too know that this program is counter-productive and a joke and would like to know how much the states allocates to this aweful program.

  6. Nate says:

    Editorial articles concerning the budget of BTSA should be writtena and sent to all major California newspapers. We shouldn’t be reducing the school year by 5 days (as is the case in Porterville Unified for 3-4 years now) while still throwing money into the BTSA hole. It is a redundant program- it doesn’t create new jobs for anyone; it just provides more lucrative steams of income for people already with good jobs. BTSA was some legislators way of generating more money for the already wealthy.

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