By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CTA Vice President Dean Vogel, President David A. Sanchez, and Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes at the President's Conference in July, where CTA chapter leaders focused on the upcoming election.
"This election is really, really important," said Pablo Martin, MiraCosta College Teachers Association president, at this year's Presidents Conference in Asilomar, which focused largely on the upcoming November election. "People are going to have to stand up for what's right. We have big corporations, think tanks and ultraconservative groups putting out information that isn't real. We need to reach out, especially to young people, and get everyone actively engaged."
"November's election can be the critical turning point our state needs to get back on track," said CTA President David A. Sanchez in his welcoming speech. "It's imperative that we have a governor who shares our values about public education. Keeping our members informed and engaged for November is going to be critical, and we must talk with our friends and families about the real threat of Meg Whitman not only to California schools but to our entire state."
Chapter leaders said they are ready for an education-friendly governor, as well as other candidates and measures that are critical to the survival of public education in California.
"Absolutely there's a sense of urgency," said Jim Grijalva, president of the Los Altos Teachers Association. "I've been wearing black since March 13. The death of public education is imminent unless we do something."
Proposition 25 is a solution to California's budget disaster, added Grijalva, because it breaks the legislative gridlock by allowing a simple majority of legislators to approve a state budget rather than a two-thirds supermajority.
"The way things are now, one 'no' vote counts as two votes," he added. "We need something better than that."
"We have to elect Tom Torlakson," asserted Linda Hansen, Napa Valley Education Association president. "He's one of us. He's been a teacher. He's been involved in all the things we do and knows what is important in educating our children. My chapter will be doing a lot of community outreach and getting information out to our community about how important this is."
Lewis Lester, Orange County Schools Education Association bargaining chair, said his chapter is starting a political action committee to organize members politically in his community, which leans toward conservatism.
"Education is more important today and more at risk than it has been in the last 30 years," said Lester. "Taxpayers need to do something different, and they haven't done anything different since Proposition 13. Proposition 98 was supposed to be a floor, but it is now a ceiling."
It is imperative, he added, to pass Proposition 24, the CTA-sponsored Tax Fairness Act, which eliminates nearly $2 billion in tax loopholes for corporations.
Laura Williams, president of the Teachers Association of Norwalk, said that it would be an injustice to allow big money from corporations and billionaires to buy the election in California.
"I believe spending all that money will backfire on Meg Whitman," said Williams. "The working-class people don't appreciate being manipulated. I am going to organize phone banking and be very politically active to stop her."
Keith Law, president of the Merced College Faculty Association, said he plans to combine tactics so that association members working to elect an education-friendly school board can also work on statewide campaigns.