Gov. Jerry Brown Stands with CTA leaders President Dean E. Vogel, Vice President Eric C. Heins, Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki and Executive Director Carolyn Doggett at the CTA Presidents Conference.
Mobilizing for fights that lie ahead, an estimated 1,700 educators attending CTA’s two summer training conferences reacted enthusiastically to vows by Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg to protect public schools and the newly signed CTA-backed law that stabilizes education funding for the coming year.
Both leaders joined CTA President Dean E. Vogel in underscoring the importance of Assembly Bill 114, the vital education budget trailer bill Brown signed June 30 to offer a reprieve to schools from endless state budget cuts. Among other things, the bill prohibits any last-minute teacher layoffs in August and guarantees that school districts will get the same funding as last fiscal year, allowing them to rehire many laid-off educators.
Speaking July 22 at the 57th annual CTA Presidents Conference in Pacific Grove, Brown delivered a firm message to school district officials who have criticized the new law and publicly doubted AB 114 funding. “When we say the money is coming, you [can] assume it’s coming.”
He said school districts should not ignore the mandates of the legislation, and more districts should read his AB 114 signing letter to understand that they do have some flexibility. (The signing letter says school boards can make reductions due to “cost increases, loss of federal funds, enrollment declines or other factors.” It also warns that districts must “adhere to the level of state funding provided in the budget and not assume a different, or lower, state funding level.”)
Brown criticized Republican legislators for not agreeing to extend some temporary taxes before they expired July 1, costing the state billions in revenue and hurting critical public services. Protecting schools must be a top priority, he said. “I think we need a reawakened understanding that a good society, with kids well educated, is in our interest.”
He praised the life skills that schools teach to kids, including how to play together. “A lot of people never did learn to play together. And a lot of them are in the Legislature.”
Brown said he supports testing, but wants to invest more in schools to develop more critical minds. “I also would like students, 20 years later, to still be reading, to still be thinking, to still be evaluating, because they had a great education.”
Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg closed the weeklong Summer Institute on Aug. 5, telling the audience of 1,100 educators that CTA members should “take a little credit where credit is due” for fighting so hard all year to protect education funding.
Steinberg, who defended his support for AB 114 in the media this summer, said he was baffled by the “unfathomable” sniping about the law, especially when school administrators rose up to criticize it. Calling the law “the right thing to do,” he said the legislation to keep education funding at last year’s levels is needed, especially after some 30,000 educators have been laid off in recent years.
Keeping education funding flat and avoiding more classroom cuts in a year when the state budget deficit soared to $26.5 billion was no small feat, he noted. The passage of AB 114 should have meant that “school administrators and the education community would say thank you for the rabbit you pulled out of a hat.”
He vowed to make reinvesting in public education a top priority in the three and a half years he has left in the Legislature so that the state can “begin again to make California schools the pride of the nation.”
President Vogel added, “In the past three years, $20 billion has been cut from public education. If temporary tax extensions had passed, AB 114 would not have been necessary.” Enforcing AB 114 will require a lot of vigilance, and there will be other political battles as well.
He called for unity in his addresses at the Presidents Conference and Summer Institute at UCLA. Teachers in the audience waved “We Are One” posters as he spoke.
The coming election cycle will be difficult, he warned, with another “paycheck deception” initiative attempting to silence the political voice of educators. He went into detail about CTA’s push for tax fairness to find new funding for schools and essential services, a campaign that’s outlined at www.cta.org/taxfairness. “If we’re going to take back our state and protect our democracy, I think what we’ve really got to do is make people understand what’s happening. … There are 300,000 of us, and we are in every single community all across this state.”
CTA members were inspired by the summer speeches and the cutting-edge trainings.
Darla Bramlette attended Summer Institute with 11 members of her Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association from Bakersfield, a group that took part in trainings for emerging union leaders, on school finance and on national Common Core standards.
“I was very impressed by Mr. Steinberg — he was up-front,” said Bramlette, the NEA director for Tulare and Kern counties and the High Desert. “And all the members were very impressed by what they saw during the week.”
At the Presidents Conference, Beaumont Teachers Association President Jody Behrens from Riverside County found the media relations training helpful and the speech by Jerry Brown inspiring, even though she is a Republican. “Had I known what the governor was going to do for us, I would have voted for him.”