California’s largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association (CTA), adamantly opposes legislation that emphasizes using phonics to teach children to read. The CTA recently sent a lengthy letter to the state legislature detailing the union’s opposition to a bill designed to improve literacy instruction. 

Anyone who has listened to the informational and influential “Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong” podcast series—and anyone with common sense—will recognize how foolish this is. The majority of states are moving away from failed “balanced literacy” or “whole language” approaches to literacy instruction and embracing what is called the “science of reading.” 

Education Week reports, “Over the past decade, 37 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or other policies related to evidence-based reading instruction.” In 2023 alone, 17 states implemented new “scientifically-based” literacy policies that emphasize phonemic awareness and phonics, as well as vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency

Only 31% of California’s fourth graders are proficient readers according to 2022 NAEP results (and only 12% of black students and 18% of Hispanic students). Among California’s eighth-grade students, 30% are proficient readers. If 70% of the state’s students read poorly, why does California’s teachers union oppose a literacy bill? 

The legislation emphasizes training educators to teach reading using proven methods, but the union wants teachers to continue to rely on the discredited “three-cueing” (i.e., guess the word using the picture) methods of the past. California’s students deserve better, and so do the state’s educators. The CTA website claims that the union’s 310,000 members are “passionate advocates for students,” but CTA leaders are passionately advocating for an ongoing literacy crisis.

To learn more about how the teachers union thwarts academic initiatives, read “Teachers Union Eliminates Reading Tutoring” (Akron Education Association).

For more information about teachers unions, check out the Education Freedom Center’s Teachers Union Resource Center.