Advocacy

Political Watchdog Hits "Dark Money" Contributors with Record Fine

FPPC

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state agency that oversees elections and contributions, and the state Attorney General have announced a record $1 million fine is being levied against out-of-state organizations that made illegal political contributions during their fight to defeat CTA-backed Proposition 30 and to pass CTA-opposed Proposition 32 last November.

The state watchdog agency detailed a “dark money trail” followed by the Koch brothers, a pair of billionaire political right-wing radicals, to direct about $15 million to No on Prop. 30 – passed by voters – and Yes on Proposition 32 -- a measure that aimed to handcuff unions and gag the voices of working women and men, a measure voters defeated.

The FPPC on Thursday afternoon announced that “record civil settlement against the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) and Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL), two nonprofits operated as part of the ‘Koch Brothers' Network’ of dark money political nonprofit corporations. The settlement requires CPPR and ARL to pay $1 million to the State General Fund for their failure to disclose two dark money independent expenditure contributions in the 2012 election to oppose Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32.”

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It's Time for the Shutdown Games to End!

“Congressional Tea Party Republicans have chosen to play games with the lives of our most vulnerable in society to score ideological political points,” said NEA director of government relations Mary Kusler. They have forced deep sequester cuts, shut down the government and are on the brink of bringing the nation’s economy to its knees. Students and senior citizens will pay the price for years to come as a result. It’s time for the games to end!

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Matt Damon Joins Diane Ravitch Tour

Matt Damon Diane Ravitch book tour Reign of ErrorAfter a stop in Sacramento last week where she shared the stage with CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki , Diane Ravitch continued her tour promoting her new book Reign of Error Wednesday Night at CSU Northridge. Matt Damon, whose educator mother was in the audience, brought some Hollywood star power to the event, introducing Ravitch and lauding her stands on major education issues.

Ravitch wasted no time in her hour-long presentation, exposing what she calls hoaxes being perpetrated on the public and on the education community, largely by corporate and billionaire so-called reformers. "America is not falling behind," noted Ravitch, sharing recent data that ties the US with Finland, a nation often ranked at the top in education.

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Making a difference for 150 years

The inspiring, caring commitment and dedication of California’s educators over the 150 years of CTA’s advocacy for students and public education is highlighted in a statewide television and radio ad campaign launched today.

The back-to-school ad campaign, which runs through October 8, includes Bay Area and Sacramento educators, continuing he this year’s CTA’s 150th anniversary celebration and the union’s dedication to student learning and the teaching profession.

Take a look:

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CTA Members Speak Out Against Editorial Attacks

This weekend, the San Diego Union Tribune ran a hatchet piece against our union in its Opinion-Editorial section. Along with this, it ran an article by Reformer du Jour Michelle Rhee. At no point did the news outlet ask for our stance or offer a spot to rebut the obviously politically-motivated, unsubstantiated claims. We thank our fearless members who speak up against these attacks and help dispel the myths being pushed out to the pubic.

Below is a response from Sweetwater Education Association member Helen Farias:

As a 2013 SUHSD Teacher of the Year and nominee for San Diego County Teacher of the Year, as well as an active member of Sweetwater Education Association and California Teachers Association, I take strong offense to your portrayal of teachers and their unions. You bash unions for protecting bad teachers, but I know that my union allows exceptional teachers to advocate for their students. Because of union protections, there are teachers in Sweetwater who are challenging one of the most corrupt school boards in the nation...

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CTA remembers 50th anniversary of March on Washington

This is an inspiring week for our country as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 where, in front of more than 200,000 people, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. It was truly a teachable moment that changed the nation.

CTA has joined labor and civil rights groups in the national remembrance. As part of our efforts to honor this special day, Wednesday, Aug. 28, CTA has partnered with the Oakland-based Equal Justice Society to promote free lesson plans for educators about milestones in civil rights. You can include these history-rich moments in the civil rights movement to help students comprehend what was at stake, and why the struggles against racism still matter. The EJS also works to combat implicit bias from racial and gender stereotypes that CTA also reveals and dispels in our training about overcoming unconscious bias.

CTA put a call out to members asking for any personal stories or experiences related to the historic events. Hear from three members about their experiences:


Harriet Hutchinson is a retired kindergarten teacher from Oakland who remembers the March on Washington and the impact of being there that day has had on her life.

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Federal Lawmakers Need to Fix Pending ESEA

Over CTA and NEA member objections, the House of Representatives on a partisan vote recently passed HR 5, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Now known as The “Student Success Act” (HR 5), the bill as currently written would undermine the federal government’s role of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. Specifically, the bill would reduce resources aimed to support the education of marginalized students and undermine teacher quality and the role of collective bargaining in constructing teacher evaluations.

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Take Action to Expose Secret Super PACs

Last November, you said NO to the secret Super PACs’ agenda and helped the Alliance for a Better California defeat the deceptive Proposition 32. We want to thank you for your support.

During the campaign, we learned that the group ‘Americans for Responsible Leadership’ was actually a front used to funnel $11 million into California from anonymous donors trying to gain more power for special interests.

But even after being exposed, the Super PACs still refuse to name their real donors.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) began investigating the dark money groups last year and has already forced them to admit to their deception. They are empowered to expose the special interests for who they really are and fine them for breaking California law.

Help us unmask the Super PAC Billionaires now. Sign our petition to urge the FPPC to fast-track their investigation.

Californians deserve a speedy resolution to this issue to reveal the truth and preserve the integrity of our election process. Sign our petition today and help us ensure that this never happens again.

P.S. To learn more about our fight against the Super PACs, please read this news story.

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CTA and NEA Press Lawmakers to Make Reauthorized ESEA Work

Congress could take up its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – HR 5 or the Student Success Act – as early as next week. Our members in California and National Education Association members around the country are urging federal lawmakers to turn the reauthorization bill into one that will work for our students and our schools.

NEA has opposed the bill in committee, and we share concerns about several troubling aspects of the proposed legislation.

HR 5 would undermine the federal government‘s work to ensure equity for all students. The bill would undercut efforts to get targeted resources to schools that educate students width greater needs. HR 5 would also weaken collective bargaining protections involving teacher evaluation. The bill would also continue to force schools to use high stakes testing that is harming teaching and learning.

NEA is also working to stop amendments that would add private school vouchers to the bill. Our members and educators throughout the nation are urging Congress to restore bargaining rights and end the focus on high stakes testing.

Congress could amend the measure over the next several days. In its current form, the bill is not acceptable.

Please urge Congress to refocus the ESEA on its original purpose: ensuring equity for all students.

Call your Congressional Representatives at 1-866-420-3592 and ask them to:

  • Recognize educators’ roles in student success, which means stopping the push for high stakes testing and guaranteeing teachers a voice in their profession through collective bargaining.
  • Oppose any efforts to divert public education funding to private school vouchers.

Or email your Congressional Representatives width the same message.

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Good News from CalSTRS: Investment Return Rate Better than Expected

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is reporting some good news to its members and the public: the system’s investments earned 13.8% over the past year—a drastic comparison to earnings in recent years.

“The reality is that even good investment performance addresses only part of the long-term needs of the fund, which suffered a severe setback in the crash of 2008,” said CalSTRS Investment Committee Chair Harry Keiley, a high school teacher and CTA member.

CTA and its members – who have partnered width CalSTRS since its founding in 1913 – are committed to working width CalSTRS to find a long-term funding solution, as noted in the association’s retirement position papers.

CalSTRS’ earnings in the 2012 fiscal year handily outpaced its “assumed rate of 7.5%.” The assumed rate is the factor used in estimating the fund’s long-term earnings, the financial resources that help cover its projected costs – including the funding of retirees’ pensions. CalSTRS has earned at a 12.6% rate over the past three years and at a 7.5% rate over the past 20 years. Over the past five years – due to the impact of the Great Recession – the system’s earnings rate hit only 3.7%.

CalSTRS board members and staff caution that investment earnings fluctuate, and the stock market’s volatility in recent years spotlights the need for the legislature and the governor to help the system achieve long-term stable funding. CalSTRS is responsible for making pension payments to 862,000 California educators and their families.

Both Keiley and CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer Jack Ehnes point out that good investment earnings are just one element needed to keep CalSTRS on solid ground. “The Legislature and the Governor must implement a long-term funding plan that includes gradual, predictable and fair contribution increases for all parties involved,” Ehnes advises.

CalSTRS staff note that the governor and legislature alone have the power to change the system’s contribution rate, the amount employers and employees pay into the pension fund each month.

CalSTRS is the largest teacher pension fund and the second largest pension fund in the U.S.

Check the CalSTRS news release about the system’s earnings and the CalSTRS Investment Overview for more information.

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Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

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