A strong union activist with a passion for politics, CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett has dedicated her life to advocating for public education, teachers, students, union and human rights. On her eventful watch, CTA’s team of 500 employees statewide has assisted in numerous outstanding victories to protect students and the teaching profession.
But after 18 years as CTA’s top executive and 46 years as an educator, Doggett has announced she will be retiring soon on Sept. 1, 2013.
She is a skilled administrator with the core values of a dedicated union organizer who thrives on politics and how they affect our classrooms. She fully understands what her friend Dr. Elaine Bernard, head of the Harvard Trade Union Program, means when Bernard says, “Unionists cannot leave politics alone, because politics will not leave unions alone.”
Learning from her years as a classroom teacher, Doggett’s political priorities are what all educators care about. That’s why, looking ahead, CTA is focused on a number of issues she cares about, including teacher evaluation, due process rights, affordable college for students, tax fairness, adequate school funding, intellectual freedom and school safety.
Three times during her tenure, corporations and millionaires tried and failed to silence the voices of California union members with phony “paycheck protection” ballot initiatives. The latest attempt, Proposition 32 in 2012, was rejected soundly by voters after CTA helped build a broad community coalition to expose its true agenda.
Campaigning tirelessly herself, working phones and knocking on voters’ doors, Doggett guided CTA’s assault on Prop. 32 – and our successful campaign to pass Governor Jerry Brown’s landmark Proposition 30 on the same ballot. Prop. 30 stopped nearly $6 billion in immediate cuts to public schools. By raising taxes on the wealthy, Prop. 30 will generate about $42 billion for public schools and local public safety needs over seven years.
Living and breathing politics has made for some interesting moments for Doggett. While phone-banking once during the 2012 campaign, she was watching her beloved San Francisco Giants on television in the playoffs, heading to their World Series victory. In the middle of a call to a voter, she shouted, “Go, Pablo, go!” as Pablo Sandoval hit yet another home run. The voter, who was also a Giants fan, screamed with her on the phone and later confirmed he was indeed voting Yes on Prop. 30 and No on 32.
Doggett cites other significant CTA accomplishments. One is the passage of the CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 to help lower-income, at-risk students succeed. The watershed QEIA law – creating the largest school turnaround program of its kind in the nation – is providing nearly $3 billion over eight years for proven reforms such as smaller class sizes, more counselors and better training. And it’s working.
She is also proud of the historic CTA campaign in 2005 to defeat several ballot initiatives that would have hurt our public schools, the education profession and the rights of union members. With coalition building and organizing, CTA again proved the importance of a united labor movement. The coalition defeated Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election attacks on working families that would have destroyed teachers’ due process rights, silenced the political voices of union members, and dismantled the education funding protections in Proposition 98.
In the past dozen or so years alone, CTA has had many other legislative and political victories. They include winning three statewide school bond elections that provided $35 billion to renovate and modernize our schools. In fact, California voters approved billions in local and state bonds and parcel taxes, and defeated a well-financed school voucher initiative in 2000. CTA fought off numerous legislative attacks on due process, seniority, pension and transfer rights of educators in the state.
As CTA celebrates its 150th year of advocacy this year, Doggett embraces what the founder of CTA, John Swett, the state’s fourth superintendent of public instruction, said in 1867 about the greater mission of educators. “They should teach the duties, rights, privileges and honors of American citizenship,” he said. “But your work is not, indeed, limited to the school room alone. You must make your influence felt on society.”
Doggett certainly has. Today, CTA membership includes 325,000 public school teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, and education support professionals. They work in the more than 1,000 local chapters to comprise what is the largest professional public employee organization in California.
She also maintains CTA's strategic alliance with the powerful National Education Association, which represents 3.2 million educators in the country. CTA is the NEA’s largest affiliate.
Doggett is a fourth-generation Californian and a fourth-generation teacher, having begun her career by teaching first grade at Brookside Elementary School in Willits, California.
She taught high school English from 1969 to 1981 in Anchorage, Alaska, was twice elected as president of the Anchorage Education Association and twice president of NEA-Alaska, the state association affiliate of the National Education Association. She lobbied the Alaska Legislature and sharpened her organizing skills in that state, going on to work on California school board and legislative campaigns.
In 1994 she was promoted to CTA deputy executive director, and took her current post a year later, bringing with her the core union values that include her belief that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Doggett holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has taken advanced course work at the University of Alaska, Anchorage; at California State University campuses in Sonoma and Hayward, and at the six-week Harvard Trade Union Program for union activists, where she has lectured many times.
Doggett and her husband, Roger Severin, live in Belmont.
Contacting Carolyn Doggett
California Teachers Association
P.O. Box 921
1705 Murchison Drive
Burlingame, CA 94011-0921
Phone: (650) 552-5329
Fax: (650) 552-5001