By Dave Earl Carpenter
Jerry Brown is CTA's recommended candidate for governor.
How we begin to put California back on track
The national economy has been devastated and is slow to recover. Our state government is dysfunctional and can't seem to fix the broken tax structure that is crippling the state. And public education is under attack like never before. But with the upcoming November elections, California voters hold an incredible amount of power to make vast, positive change in the way our state funds public education.
Our current political leaders seem unconcerned about letting California - which boasts the eighth-largest economy in the world - plummet to 46th nationally in per-pupil spending. Current leaders want students to compete for money with federal programs like Race to the Top, and support foundations that blame everything on bad teachers. All this while large corporations receive massive tax breaks that total billions of dollars annually, allowing them to shirk their responsibility to the state and reducing funds for public education.
In November, electing pro-public education candidates - like Jerry Brown for governor and Tom Torlakson for state superintendent of public instruction - and passing Proposition 24, the Tax Fairness Act, will be key priorities for getting public education back where it belongs, at the forefront of the discussion to revitalize California.
The CTA Board of Directors, with direction from State Council, has devised a plan to build organizational capacity in locals throughout the state. CTA's comprehensive plan lays the foundation for the major systematic tax changes that need to happen in California, and it lays the groundwork for CTA to pursue a tax initiative in 2012. The plan seeks to encourage all members to be a part of this important election and explains how all of the recommended candidates and initiatives are connected and are a strategic part of achieving the goal of making sure every student has a good neighborhood public school filled with quality educators, who are respected and supported (see "CTA's plan for victory").
The plan will also provide CTA members with the tools they need to help energize this campaign by volunteering, using social media to spread the word, calling neighbors, family, colleagues and friends, posting stories about the difficulties faced in the classroom, and using every tool at their disposal to positively affect this election in favor of public education (see "Social media play key role").
A governor with our values
Of utmost importance is the election of a California governor who shares our values about the necessity of good public education.
"We need a governor who will give educators a seat at the table, who will sit down with us to collaborate on the best solutions," says CTA President David A. Sanchez. "That someone is Jerry Brown. He will respect us, our opinions and our commitment to the profession."
Brown has shown that he is a friend to teachers and understands that public education is a right for students, not a privilege. He believes we must invest in our schools if we expect to create a brighter future for our state.
Brown's opponent, billionaire businesswomen Meg Whitman, is the antithesis of Brown. She wants to solve the state budget crisis by eliminating 40,000 jobs and further cutting the state budget. She wants to eliminate teachers' secure retirement system and put all public employees into risky 401(k)-style plans. These are ideas that are bad for our state and bad for our students.
"Whitman's wealth has helped her broadcast far and wide, with more than $110 million spent so far on her campaign," says Sanchez. "But she has miscalculated if she thinks she can win this election in spite of, and on the backs of, California's working class."
Public education in California has been repeatedly at the mercy of inefficient politics and the vagaries of the state's inadequate, unbalanced tax system. For decades, our state - a powerhouse of innovation that once had the best education system in the country - has neglected its schools and students, denying them decent funding for education, choosing instead to enact unfair tax structures.
Also know as the Tax Fairness Act, Prop. 24 ends nearly $2 billion in special tax breaks for big corporations, loopholes that don't require the creation or protection of one single job in California (see related story "Prop. 24"). Virtually none of the tax breaks go to small businesses in our communities. This practice has had the effect of robbing billions of dollars from the state fund every year, and has been one of the major reasons why public education is currently in such a dire state.
"The November election can be the critical turning point that California needs to get back on track," says Sanchez. "We must act now to help stop the damage being done to our public schools and students, and see that large corporations pay their fare share to fund public programs."
Over the past two years, legislators cut more than $17 billion from school funding, yet during the same period handed out tax breaks to large corporations and oil companies.
Tom Torlakson for state superintendent
Another priority for the November election is electing Tom Torlakson as state superintendent of public instruction. He is a candidate who has proved to have our students' best interest in mind.
Torlakson is a classroom educator with good ideas, as well as an active legislator who sponsored the CTA-backed Quality Education Investment Act - a bill that secured funding to bring extra resources to hundreds of lower-performing public schools. Torlakson fought to increase funding for textbooks and technology. He will be an advocate for educators and students, and he will fight to help all schools get the funding they need.
CTA's slate of recommendations for the November election includes passing Proposition 25, a common-sense solution to California's chronic budget problems that would break legislative gridlock by allowing a simple majority of legislators to approve the state budget - just like in 47 other states - instead of letting a small minority of legislators hold it captive.
There's no disputing that a well-educated population is an important ingredient for a state's growth and future success. To give citizens a proper public education is to give them options for future prosperity, which in turn stimulate the growth of the state as a whole. Funding schools is the wisest investment California can make.
During this election we need to remember that students have a right to receive a quality education. This is what we fight for every day. And it's a fight we can win by staying focused and working together.
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