Leadership

Alpine Teachers Association Strike Fund Growing

Delegates to the California Teachers Association's State Council meeting in Los Angeles swelled the Alpine Teachers Association's strike fund by over $20,000 this weekend alone (January 25-26, 2014) in a flurry of union solidarity with their San Diego County colleagues.

CTA chapters and individual members from throughout California matched other donations or raised the ante to provide support for Alpine teachers should they have to walk picket lines. Chapter contributions include $1,000 from the San Jose Teachers Association, $2,000 from United Educators of San Francisco, and $5,000 from the San Diego Education Association. Once CTA's over 1,000 chapters and 325,000 individual members have opportunity to join in the drive, the potential for additional financial support is exponential.

Alpine Teachers Association members voted overwhelmingly to give their executive board authority to call for a strike. They did so in response to draconian salary and benefits cuts callously imposed by the Alpine Unified School District Board of Education.

A significant number of ATA members will be financially crippled by losing up to 35 percent of their annual compensation. "None of us want to strike," said ATA President Gayle Malone, "but the board's punitive imposition leaves us no viable alternative if they persist in failing to bargain with us fairly."

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CTA Honored with LAANE City of Justice Award

Dean Vogel and Kamala HarrisCTA is honored to have been recognized for our 150 years of advocacy on behalf of California’s educators and students by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) at its City of Justice Awards Gala last night. 

“It takes all of us working together to make change. The fight for good paying jobs, for economic justice, for a healthy environment and for quality public schools can only be won when we work together," said CTA President Dean Vogel, speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 political activists. Dean was introduced by State Attorney General Kamala Harris (photo right).

In its 20 years, LAANE has been a progressive voice in creating a more equitable and just society. Our common goals have served to raise awareness about the necessity of a quality education, good jobs, and healthy communities. We’re proud to stand with LAANE in its ongoing commitment to civil rights and economic justice.

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Presidents Vlog: Back to School

What Local Control Funding actual means now that the school year has begun; using Common Core Standards as a guide; fighting high-stakes standardized testing; engaging communities; and, taking our profession back -- all in the latest President's Vlog...

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A Labor Day Reflection

Originally posted on Calitics.com

Labor Day is the one day of the year when we celebrate the historical achievements of the labor movement and honor those who contributed to the social and economic achievement of workers and the middle class. For me, though, this Labor Day is not only a chance to acknowledge what the labor movement has done in the past, but to reflect on what it can do in the present.

Last year at this time, teachers, firefighters, nurses and public servants came together to do something that had been unthinkable for 20 years. We persuaded voters to pass Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase to prevent drastic budget cuts to students and public schools and to keep our economy strong.

That vote was no fluke, because in the same election, voters also rejected Proposition 32, a third try at a ballot proposal that would have silenced middle-class workers and immobilized unions while strengthening the power of billionaire businessmen.

Working families may not have the billions of dollars and deep pockets of big tobacco, oil companies or Wall Street brokers, but last November, we showed that Californians want to invest in public education, their communities and their future. They want to see our economy restored so that more can work their way into the middle class, not fall out of it.

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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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Legislature’s Now Out for Summer – But Educators Get Set for Intensive Work

The state Senate officially began its summer recess today, about a week after its Assembly colleagues began theirs. Now both houses are “closed” until August.

In the meantime, some schools around the state – those on year-round-schedules — are already in session. (BTW – According to Education Bug, California leads “the nation width 1,322 year round public schools, width second-place falling to Hawaii width 296. Third came Arizona width 175. Nevada width 107 and Texas width 101 were fourth and fifth, and Georgia, width 97 was sixth.”)

Several hundred educators are also getting ready for some intense training this summer at a series of events being held by the California Teachers Association.

From July 22-25 in San Jose, hundreds of CTA chapter leaders will take part in the Presidents Conference, a four-day training program geared toward local chapter leaders. New presidents arrive on Monday to engage in core sessions especially tailored to assist them in learning their new role as local leaders. Also beginning on Monday, presidents of local chapters in the Community College Association will attend sessions designed to address issues unique to California’s community colleges.

Beginning on August 4th on the campus of UCLA, the CTA Summer Institute, the premiere workshop of its kind, will offer sessions in areas that assist chapter leaders in the day-to-day representation and support of members. Sessions include Communications, Instruction and Professional Development, Emerging Leaders, Bargaining, School Finance, Healthcare Benefits and Issues, Legal, Member Benefits and Community Outreach.

 

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CalPERS Holds Up Plan to Web-Post Information About Retirees' Pensions

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has temporarily halted its plans to post searchable web-based information about its retirees and their pension amounts.

The hiatus came as a result of an outpouring of opposition to the plan from retirees and organizations representing them, according to a July 11 article in The Sacramento Bee, CalPERS Holds Off Launching.

Advocates for retirees and public employees argued forcefully that the planned web posting would put retirees at risk of having their identities stolen and make them vulnerable to other financial scams.

Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) is quoted as saying the delay is a good thing as it will provide time for the system to review what information should be posted and what – including Social Security numbers and other personal information – should be excluded and protected.

Advocacy groups have reportedly been considering legislation to narrow the agency’s authorization to post information about its members that could be perused by the public.

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Governor Brown Tapped as “America’s Greatest Education Governor"

California Teachers Accept Award on Governor’s Behalf; He Addresses 9,000 Educators via Video

(Photo above) Governor of California Jerry Brown speaks via a live video feed during the presentation of America’s Greatest Education Governor. NEA Today/Rick Runion

The National Education Association at its annual Representative Assembly in early July named California Governor Jerry Brown its “Education Governor of the Year.”

The 325,000-member California Teachers Association nominated Brown for the prestigious annual award for his ongoing commitment to public schools. He led the fight for his Proposition 30 last year to stop billions in education cuts and generate $47 billion over the next seven years for schools, colleges and other essential services. He also last week signed into law his historic overhaul of public school funding that provides more money to help at-risk English learners and low-income students succeed.

Leaders of CTA – Davis Counselor Dean Vogel, Pittsburg Elementary Educator Eric Heins, and San Bernardino Youth Services Teacher Mikki Cichocki-Semo – accepted the award on the governor’s behalf.

Later, the governor addressed the Representative Assembly via video feed, thanking California’s teachers for their courage and support that helped quality and pass Proposition 30, the revenue measure that stopped another $5 billion in cuts and began the turn-around of the state’s finances.

The governor recalled his signing the state’s collective bargaining law more than 38 years ago and the continued need to provide local participation and leadership from teachers who are closest to the students. He advocates giving those in the classrooms and local school districts “maximum authority.”

“Teaching is lighting a fire, and the job of politicians is to enable teachers to light that fire….not to regiment students like they’re on parole,” Brown said. He also downplayed the role of testing in education, noting that “you don’t [get students to] learn by hammering people. You [get them to] learn by inspiring them.”

 

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