By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
In the beginning, CTA fought primarily for members to receive better salaries and working conditions. But CTA has expanded its role as an advocate and watchdog for public schools, which have come under increasing attack.
Carolyn Doggett, CTA's executive director, disagrees when others say that the association has stepped outside its bounds by getting involved in political issues at the state and national levels.
"People always ask: Why is CTA involved in politics?" says Doggett. "It's simple: We want to make things better for our schools and our students. And like it or not, we are greatly affected by the decisions made in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as in local school boards. Unions exist because members can be stronger collectively than individually. Because of CTA, educators' voices can be heard."
A trend has occurred in public education over the past decade turning our schools into testing factories and using the results to portray them as "failing." At the same time, significant amounts of education funding have been siphoned off for unregulated charters and privatization. What's more, large corporate tax loopholes are drying up education funding in the Golden State.
"Over the years, we, as an organization, have had to become more visible," says CTA President David A. Sanchez. "In some ways, we have become both the watchdog and the savior of public education. We have assumed these roles because we care about the students we teach and the future of California."
Some in the education community are applauding our expanded role.
"The growing number of mandates and non-educators enforcing them make teachers unions more critical than ever," says Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, in an online article for Education World about why teachers unions are needed more than ever. "Unions need to ensure that teachers' influence on curriculum and practices is not further eroded."
Ravitch, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Brookings Institution, believes that teachers unions must advocate for schools because scripted programs and drill-and-kill instruction designed to increase test scores are undermining teacher expertise and are no longer allowing teachers to do what they think is best for the students in their classrooms. And that hurts our students, at times robbing them of a well-rounded education.