By CTA President David A. Sanchez
With the June 8 primary election right around the corner, it is of the utmost importance that we choose the best candidates who support public education and understand the need for effectively funding our state’s schools. California educators have paid dearly over recent years, with more than 16,000 educators laid off last year and another 26,000 receiving pink slips this spring. Countless dedicated professionals have been left in a state of limbo, along with all of California’s students — the ones who end up paying the price for the bad decisions being made by our elected leaders.
It’s more important than ever that all CTA members exercise their right to vote in June. Tom Torlakson — CTA’s recommendation for state superintendent of public instruction — is an excellent example of the type of leader we need guiding California’s public school system out of the deep crisis we find ourselves in today. With experience as a science teacher and coach, Torlakson has worked in California’s schools and sees the very real challenges our classrooms face day in and day out with issues like swelling class sizes and the proliferation of corporate charter schools that have no accountability to the community.
The situation with funding our schools is truly dismal — and stands to get even worse if we don’t choose the right candidates this election year. We desperately need leaders who can get the job done. Torlakson has a proven track record of delivering on education issues and bringing about real results and positive effects for students and teachers. He sponsored CTA’s Quality Education Investment Act, which provides $3 billion to help lower-performing schools. He opposed the flawed Race to the Top (RTTT) program, which requires states to adopt specific standards and expand accountability measures such as paying and evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and also seeks to impose more stringent sanctions against lower-performing schools. Spearheaded by Gloria Romero — who is running against Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction — the state’s effort to conform to RTTT is one of many ill-conceived issues she has backed that have adversely affected public education. Romero has also supported efforts to weaken the state’s Class Size Reduction Program and voted to take away funding from public schools and give it to corporate charter schools that have a track record of excluding some students, especially those with special needs and English learners.
California needs a state superintendent who is going to be pro-public schools and pro-student. Torlakson understands that it is best to have a collaborative environment where teachers and educators are given buy-in and are part of the dialogue about reform. Being an educator himself, Torlakson realizes that educators should have a say in the advancement of the public education system. He knows that reforms work best when they are done at the local level to best meet the needs of students in each neighborhood.
The June primaries represent an extraordinary opportunity for educators to positively influence the critical issues that will affect the future of our classrooms for years to come. If we neglect to vote for pro-education candidates, the future funding and supportive resources for our state’s public schools are bound to be even worse off than they are today. Tell your friends, neighbors and family members to get out and vote. The future of education and of California’s students is at stake in June.