Ask Dean: Why is this election so important?
By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
The old adage that money won’t buy happiness may be true. But you’d be hard-pressed to prove that to the billionaire businessmen behind Proposition 32. Using their secretive Super PAC, they’ve dropped another $4 million into the Prop. 32 campaign, which targets our public schools, our profession, our students and our colleagues in the middle class. Super PACs are definitely changing the political landscape.
An out-of-state committee linked to the Koch brothers, the billionaire oil tycoons, contributed more than $4 million to the Yes on 32 campaigns — and because the committee doesn't have to disclose its donors, we'll probably never know the true source of the money. This is just a glimpse of how California politics will be run if Prop. 32 passes, with billionaire business interests pouring unlimited funds into secretive Super PACs to promote their agenda and drown out the voice of the middle class — our voice.
We’ve seen that a lot of money from secret individuals or groups will buy quite a bit of media — produce movies and direct media campaigns that benefit a narrow band of the population, often to the detriment of the majority of us.
Millionaires and billionaires are pouring millions into passing Proposition 32. They don’t believe in the checks and balances in our democracy, just in the checks they write to bankroll one of the most devious attacks on the middle class that California has ever seen on a ballot. Prop. 32 is just another investment for them.
Big money doesn’t care that CTA members are the ones who work to make our schools and students successful. Corporations don’t care that it is the middle class that educates, protects and serves our communities.
Just look at what has been accomplished lately through CTA’s advocacy. Teachers who were laid off because of California’s bruising funding cuts to education will be able to collect unemployment benefits while retraining to fill other teaching positions in California’s shortage fields starting Jan. 1, 2014. CTA co-sponsored legislation, SB 1291, allows teachers enrolled in credential preparation programs in hard-to-staff subject areas to qualify for unemployment benefit payments. Under current law, laid-off workers are generally barred from receiving these benefits while enrolled in educational programs.
While the bill is not a solution to the greatest problem facing California’s public schools — securing the stable funding that will roll back cuts in staffing, increases in class sizes, and wholesale closings of libraries and enrichment programs — we are making headway. We are working on school improvement that makes a difference, not a quick-fix scheme created by so-called reformers.
That’s why we ask for your NO vote on 32 and YES vote on 30. Our ability to advocate is directly linked to our ability to work for school funding. Our detractors know that. And if a skewed media campaign that belittles your work and attacks your character and commitment is what it takes, that’s what they will do.
We cannot afford to elect politicians with dangerously misplaced priorities, who blatantly disrespect public school employees, and whose policies would lead to larger class sizes, less instruction time and drastic funding cuts.
Now, more than ever, the temptation might be to go to your classroom and close the door. That is the place we know we are making a difference for kids, for our profession, our state. We know that if even one of our struggling students makes a significant learning gain, then our lives are well spent.
I appreciate the desire to close the doors, do your duty by voting and be done with it. But that will not be enough to counter the money stacking up against us. Fortunately, we have something that they can’t buy — we have you and 325,000 other educators in communities all across California. And we are all going to have to get engaged to win this election.
So I encourage you to make your voice heard. First, by casting your ballot, and when you vote, vote for candidates and issues that help our students, our schools and our profession. Second, by sharing your story and encouraging neighbors and friends to vote. Ask them to join you — to join us — in supporting positive education issues that improve schools, and in supporting policymakers who will listen to the people rather than the big corporations.
Together we make a difference.
Together we are an awesome force. We stand together with one single purpose in this election — to elect pro-education candidates, pass Prop. 30 and defeat Prop. 32.