By CTA President David A. Sanchez
By Friday, March 13, more than 26,500 California educators had received pink slips from their school districts. On that day, educators, students, parents and community members showed their support for public education at “Pink Friday” events all across our state. CTA’s statewide day of action drew attention to the more than $11 billion in cuts to California schools and colleges. Members held flagpole rallies before school and marches and protests after school. In many areas local businesses offered support. In Oxnard, for example, employees of Gold’s Gym put aside their black uniforms for the day and wore pink in support of public education. Educators and community members also made great use of CTA’s www.pinkfriday09.org website, which helped teachers plan countless Pink Friday rallies and organize in an unprecedented way.
This is all happening in the wake of the Legislature passing and the governor signing an 18-month state budget package. The good news is, we have a budget. The bad news is, we have a budget. In order to close the state’s $42 billion deficit, the compromise budget cuts more than $11 billion from public education. That is the single largest cut to education in our state’s history. It will impact a generation of students. It is why taking action on Pink Friday was of such importance — to mobilize public education supporters for the May 19 special election.
As part of the state budget agreement, California voters will decide on six initiatives during a special election. These initiatives work in tandem, so that if any of them fail, education will surely face more cuts and the state will be back to square one with trying to balance the budget. You can be certain that if all these initiatives don’t pass, partisan gridlock will make a new compromise even harder to reach. The new Senate Republican leader has vowed he will not support new taxes in any form.
In an emergency meeting last month, the CTA Board voted unanimously to take an interim support position on Proposition 1B, which starts the process of repaying $9.3 billion owed to schools under the minimum funding guarantee. The Board felt it was imperative to take a support position on Prop. 1B so that CTA could sign the ballot arguments. But we need to bear in mind that many of these initiatives are dependent upon one another. For example, Prop. 1B sets up the repayment process, but Proposition 1A actually provides the funding to begin the repayment. At press time, State Council was meeting to consider and define our positions on all six initiatives.
In the midst of all this calamity, CTA also had some tremendous victories in the budget fight this year. First, we protected the state’s minimum school funding law, Proposition 98. Getting Prop. 1B on the ballot was a huge concession from lawmakers. CTA also fought off attempts to shorten the school year by five days. And CTA protected the state’s Class Size Reduction program, defeating several attempts to gut the program and give local school districts full flexibility to spend CSR money any way they wanted. Without CSR, many districts would be looking at even greater layoffs.
I want to thank all of you for getting involved and making your voices heard at Pink Friday events and on the www.pinkfriday09.org website. Be sure to continue to use the site, join in the discussion, post your Pink Friday photos and stories, and keep on using this incredible tool to help organize in support of the May 19 initiatives. This is our opportunity to turn the tide for public education in California. It’s our chance to do what we do best: take care of our state’s children.