CTA’s strength as an organization for the past 150 years is directly related to our engaged membership. Throughout our history, we’ve been pretty successful at building support in the community, too. But we must do better at engaging parents and communities in current school improvement efforts. We must take a more active role in building community. And we are planning to do just that.
Two years ago, our State Council of Education directed us to establish a workgroup and develop a process for long-term strategic planning. So we put together a large and diverse group of members and staff tasked with leading the process. It was time for CTA to take a comprehensive look at what was working and what wasn’t. It was also time to take a look at how we are empowering our members to be the best educators they can be.
And for the past two years, after hearing from more than 30,000 members through surveys and focus groups and one-on-one conversations, the long-term strategic planning group has compiled its findings. The plan, titled “Our Union, Our Future,” steers us to begin by building an organizing culture where members are continually engaged in talking with and listening to one another.
The plan also provides assistance to local chapters in strengthening ties with their communities, so that our members have ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships with community groups, and teachers and education support professionals are seen as resources and experts on public education issues, like curriculum, safety, proven reforms and adequate resources.
Thankfully, we are seeing more resources coming back to our schools after years of devastating budget cuts. We all worked hard to pass Proposition 30 last November to raise school funding in California, which is now ranked 49th nationwide in per-pupil funding. Voters agreed, and now money is flowing to every school district in our state to begin to repay years of cuts.
Through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the money is also going to communities serving our students of greatest need. This new way of funding public education gives educators, parents and school districts the opportunity to decide locally what tools their students need to succeed. For that reason, the LCFF is another important vehicle for engaging parents and communities in their local public schools.
Another opportunity for us to shape the education of our students is provided by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These new comprehensive, comprehensible standards refocus what is happening in schools and allow teachers more control over what is taught in the classroom. While we don’t agree with or support rushing the implementation of these standards or the high-stakes testing provisions that may be attached to them, California has always believed in high standards for its students. This is why CTA supports AB 484, a recently enacted bill that postpones student testing until teachers can be trained on the CCSS and students can be exposed to the material.
We have tremendous opportunities before us with the CCSS and the LCFF. Both give us additional reasons to talk with parents and community members about what they want for their children. I’m sure we are going to find that we all want the same things for our students.
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