Volume 16 Issue 2
By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
CTA has for many years been concerned about the enormous gap in California between the haves and the have-nots — a chasm that seems to be growing greater and greater with every passing year. It’s a system that weakens our public schools and our communities, and punishes the poor. The recent “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere have proved that Americans agree with us: They are fed up with a system that neglects its disadvantaged members. People have taken to the streets to demand job opportunities, to promote tax fairness, and to call on our wealthiest citizens and corporations to pay an equal share.
Tax fairness has been and will continue to be a key priority for CTA, so we are joining the national “Occupy Wall Street” movement to bring attention to the need for a better tax structure that provides stable and adequate funding for public education. We believe the way out of our current economic crisis is to invest in education and create job opportunities for America’s working class.
The numbers are startling: California ranks 46th in the U.S. in K-12 spending per student — a disgrace, considering our state has the eighth-largest economy in the world. Our state has cut more than $20 billion from schools and colleges, laid off more than 40,000 educators, and more than doubled college tuitions. During this same time, legislators have doled out corporate tax breaks and refused to even let Californians decide whether to extend temporary taxes.
The result of all this is that our poorest and most vulnerable citizens bear the brunt of the economic crisis and pay the highest percentage of taxes. It’s no wonder that people are taking to streets declaring they’re fed up. The system is rigged against them.
It’s time we put our students and public schools first. Banks are being bailed out, and the middle class and poor are being shut out. The bottom 20 percent of wage earners in California pay 11 percent of their income in taxes, while the top 1 percent of wage earners pay under 8 percent.
To turn this economy around, we need to invest in our neighborhood schools. President Obama’s American Jobs Act would provide California over $3 billion, giving our schools a much needed power boost by rehiring and protecting the jobs of teachers and other educators who provide essential services to our students and help keep class sizes from growing larger. We are calling on lawmakers to support the Jobs Act, which would put 37,000 educators back to work and create thousands of other job opportunities through modernization projects.
The growing inequality and concentration of corporate power and executive wealth undermine the foundations of our democracy and the future of public schools and colleges. The health of California’s public schools and colleges depends on stable tax revenues. Let’s all make an effort to support those in need. It’s time to demand action to restore fairness to the system and make sure everyone is paying their fair share.