By Dina Martin
CTA President Dean E. Vogel addresses State Council.
Following a thoughtful and spirited debate, CTA’s State Council of Education accepted the recommendation of its Political Involvement Committee and voted to support the governor’s tax plan, which provides additional funding for schools and pays down the state's debt.
The governor’s initiative, called the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012, raises about $7 billion annually for education and other essential services by raising income taxes on the wealthy and instituting a temporary half-cent sales tax hike. In signing on to support the initiative, CTA joins what promises to be a broad coalition of labor, education and business groups that have gotten behind the proposal, including the Service Employees International Union.
Following the Council meeting Jan. 29, CTA President Dean E. Vogel stated: “Educators know that California cannot continue to cut its way out of ongoing budget problems. We also know that not everyone in California is paying their fair share, and that’s why we are supporting the governor’s tax proposal, which taxes the wealthiest Californians in order to bring additional revenue to our schools, colleges and other essential public services.
“The governor’s initiative is the only initiative that provides additional revenues for our classrooms, closes the state budget deficit, and guarantees local communities will receive funds to pay for the realignment of local health and public safety services that the Legislature approved last year. It’s time to put California back on track, and this initiative is the best way to do that. It’s the right choice for our students and their families, our communities and our state.”
In voting to support the governor’s initiative, State Council adhered to budget principles it had adopted previously for tax initiatives. Those criteria are that any tax initiative approved is progressive in nature and promotes tax fairness; that it funds public education and other essential services; that it generates $8 billion to $10 billion and helps close the state budget deficit; that it is supported by a broad coalition; and that it’s winnable.
The debate in Council centered on both the governor’s initiative and the California Funding Restoration Act, which is sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign and relies on increasing taxes of millionaires and high earners. While several speakers spoke passionately and eloquently for the CFT initiative because it would require more from millionaires, Council was persuaded by arguments that the governor’s initiative had the best chance of winning because of the broad support it is likely to receive; that it freed up money for higher education and other essential services; and that it paid down the wall of debt the state must address.
Council also elected not to support a third initiative sponsored by wealthy activist Molly Munger. Her “Our Children, Our Future” initiative wouldn’t bring funds to higher education, nor would it help reduce the state deficit.
The early support for the governor’s tax initiative will allow CTA to prepare for other important campaign issues, particularly the “paycheck deception” initiative, which will involve a large-scale member mobilization. Unlike two previous initiatives, the measure on the November ballot doesn’t just affect CTA and public employee unions, but all unions in the state, and goes straight to their ability to give their members a voice in politics. It prohibits any contributions collected via payroll deduction (i.e., member dues) to ballot measure committees as well as independent expenditures supporting or opposing state and local candidates and ballot measures.
“Defeating this must be the top priority for the entire labor community, not just us,” Vogel said. “If this initiative passes, we won’t be able to advocate for our profession or our state — but corporations would be able to lobby for their interests. We get taken out of the picture. Corporations get the whole show.”
He continued, “If we left it up to the CEOs, how long do you think we’d have a 40-hour work week, a secure retirement, and safe working conditions — all things our union and others fought hard for? Those behind this deceptive initiative aren’t seeking to protect your voice as an individual; they are seeking to annihilate it. If I sound paranoid, that’s because I know what they are after. They are after us. They know that as a union of educators we will always put students before profits and learning before mandates.”
To help launch the upcoming campaign, State Council members were invited to be filmed giving short messages about why it was important for CTA to be politically involved.
Dennis Kelly and Susan Solomon, president and secretary of United Educators of San Francisco, each talked about the UESF-sponsored Proposition A, a parcel tax approved by voters in 2010 that raises $28 million per year. The new funding has allowed the district to recruit and retain quality teachers with increases in base pay, bonuses for working in hard-to-staff schools and in hard-to-fill subject areas, and retention bonuses.
“That parcel tax directly affects the quality of education in the district, but without being able to use our union dues, we wouldn’t have been able to conduct that campaign,” Kelly said.
In addition, the November ballot may contain a spending cap initiative to cut school funding and limit future state spending, and an initiative that threatens pensions. It will also include the presidential candidates.
Of the upcoming campaign, Vogel said, “Losing is not an option for this election, and victory isn’t going to be easy. But together, we have a powerful voice and tremendous energy and a successful track record. While the attacks on us seem to be coming from all sides these days, know this: They wouldn’t be attacking us if they weren’t scared of us. And they should be. We are about to go to battle for the future of this organization and our profession.”
In other action, State Council:
- Elected NEA Directors Colleen Briner-Schmidt (District 5), Gerri Gandolfo (District 7), Karl Kildow (District 8), Eric Padget (District 9), and Gilda Maria Bloom (District 16).
Elected Loren Scott to the CTA/ABC Committee (District J-LA).
- Welcomed this year’s Read Across America honorary co-chairs James Burks, Neil Klayman and Barry Chung, the authors and illustrators of “Gabby and Gator” and “Boris Ate a Thesaurus.” The annual Read Across America celebration takes place on March 2.
- Greeted Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship winner Cathy Creasia, a classroom teacher and member of United Teachers Los Angeles.
- Congratulated the San Ramon Valley Education Association, winner of the Jose Colmenares Award for Outstanding Chapter Communications, for its successful campaign to elect three school board members in a highly contested race.
- Approved a resolution that CTA will take every step necessary to combat the threatened elimination of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and all preschool programs.
- Endorsed and called upon local chapters to support the Occupy movement’s Statewide Week of Action in Defense of Public Education, March 1-8, 2012, including the rally March 5 at the state Capitol.
- Took an “Oppose” position on the Government Spending Limit Act of 2012.
- Approved candidate recommendations for the state Legislature and U.S. Congress in the June 5 primary.