Volume 15 Issue 1
By CTA President David A. Sanchez
I want to welcome you all back to another new school year - one that will likely prove to be exceptionally challenging in many ways, but will also give us an opportunity to effect great change. Like never before, we are seeing the profession of teaching under attack. We currently have a federal administration that asks us to compete for education dollars; corporate foundations are increasingly meddling in the classroom, influencing policy that leads to dangerous, experimental reforms; and too many of our state's elected leaders are failing to do their jobs, leaving us - still at this late date - with no budget at all. And that's why the elections this year are so very important: to help fix this broken process.
It's a travesty, really, a downright outrageous situation, that educators - who have day-to-day knowledge of the classroom and intimate, personal understanding of teaching - should be left out of the conversation regarding education reform.
I entered the teaching profession, as did both of my parents, who were lifelong educators, with the intention of making a difference and contributing to the growth of young minds. I personally was fortunate enough to get a first-rate education here in California - a state with such incredible wealth that it dwarfs the economies of entire countries. It's inexcusable that in a place of such abundance, schools are so starved for funds that corporate foundations like the Broad and Gates foundations can dangle sacks of money with strings attached and set their own education policy. For some unknown reason, our elected leaders have lost sight of the fact that public education is a basic right - not a privilege, not something to be bought and sold. Quality public education is what once built California and made it a great state. And quality, affordable education for all is what will once again make it a great state.
As I travel the state, it's clear to me that teachers are distressed by attacks being made on them, such as the one leveled by a Los Angeles Times story in August that used student results from California Standards Tests to evaluate teacher effectiveness for nearly 6,000 United Teachers Los Angeles members. The article was irresponsible and reckless, an oversimplification of a very complex situation. We don't dispute the importance of the data, but to think it provides a comprehensive view of a student or a teacher's effectiveness is ignorant.
Each of us has the responsibility to get involved and try to bring about positive change. It's time that we as educators understand exactly how policy is being made and by whom. From the effects of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's Race to the Top competition to corporate foundation influence to our state leaders dragging their heels on producing a state budget - a lot is happening behind the scenes that directly and profoundly affects our classrooms.
We all need to be engaged during this midyear election season. It's of the utmost importance that we elect pro-education candidates like Jerry Brown for governor and Tom Torlakson for state superintendent of public instruction. Both have strong records in support of public education. It's also important that we vote yes on Prop. 24, the Tax Fairness Act, to end $1.3 billion in special corporate tax loopholes that do not require the creation or protection of one single California job.
We have the opportunity to help turn around California and make our state a leader in public education. To do that we must be part of the conversation. We must talk to our friends, family members and colleagues over the coming months and convey to them the importance of the November election. With continued support from each of us, we will change the status quo and give all of our students the first-rate education they truly deserve.