By Mike Myslinski
In a call to action to State Council delegates, CTA President David A. Sanchez urged educators to use the 88th annual American Education Week, Nov. 15-21, to "do something in your community to highlight how the budget cuts are hurting your students and schools."
He also warned of new election cycle threats ahead — new ballot initiatives designed to silence the political voices of public employees and restrict how union dues are spent to fight for them.
"I know many challenges lie ahead for us, but united, we will overcome," Sanchez vowed.
He asked all educators to tell the public during the vital American Education Week — set aside by the National Education Association decades ago to honor U.S. public schools — how state education funding cuts of more than $17 billion over the past two years are hurting California students. Class sizes are soaring and programs like music, art, sports and vocational education are being eliminated. As CTA members did with "Pink Friday" layoff protests earlier this year, teachers must sound the alarm during this national event, Sanchez said.
"Whether it's a town hall meeting, a protest, distributing fliers to parents, writing to the local newspaper or posting on your favorite blog — any activity that will raise awareness is welcome and badly needed."
He noted that resources for these events can be found at www.standupforschools.org. "And I encourage you to use that site to share ideas, post upcoming events, and engage in conversations about how cuts have affected our schools and what we can do about it."
CTA chapters must help tell the story of the ongoing education cuts crisis at the local level. "Some chapters have done a great job getting the word out — some of you have held events — some of you have done it through your Service Center Councils," Sanchez said. "But we must keep up the pressure and look for all opportunities to tell this story."
He said part of the story should be that it's "obscene for the state Legislature to be handing out tax breaks to large corporations," as lawmakers did this year for a windfall of $2 billion to big businesses, when our schools are experiencing the largest funding cut since the Great Depression.
Also, it's time for CTA to "change the debate in California" to focus on how a handful of legislators can "shut down the budget process every year because it takes a two-thirds vote to pass the state budget and raise revenues."
Sanchez updated Council on key federal fights. He noted that CTA helped slow down the rushed process by the governor and lawmakers to make sweeping changes to California education laws just so the state can qualify for one-time grants from the federal Race to the Top program.
He said the Race to the Top process has revealed how the Obama administration might want to handle the looming reauthorization of No Child Left Behind — with more of the one-size-fits-all approach that would hurt students and schools.
On NCLB, Sanchez said, "We are continuing to provide input and testimony. After all, we want to erase, rewrite and reauthorize — not re-test, relabel, re-test, repeat, re-test and regurgitate."
In other action, State Council:
- Approved supporting Sen. Barbara Boxer for another term in 2010.
- Made "friendly incumbent" recommendations in key state races: Debra Bowen, for secretary of state; John Chiang, state controller; Bill Lockyer, state treasurer; Betty Yee, State Board of Equalization, First District seat.
- Elected teacher E. Toby Boyd of Sacramento to the CTA Board of Directors for District E, representing educators in the Sacramento County area. Boyd fills the seat of Michael Bustos, and his term of office runs to June 25, 2011.
- Elected three new NEA Board members: Sonia Martin-Solis of Alhambra for District 6/14; Kendall Vaught of Huntington Beach, District 9; and Sergio Martinez of Norwalk, District 13. Their terms expire on Aug. 31, 2010; Vaught's term expires on Aug. 31, 2012.
- Directed CTA President David A. Sanchez to send a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and the state Public Health Agency "urging them to make teachers and other school employees who have direct contact with students be made a priority group for receiving the H1N1 vaccine."
- Reaffirmed CTA's belief in majority rule as a fundamental feature of our democracy by adding policy language stating that "any initiative, local measure or state policy should be passed by 50 percent plus one. CTA supports efforts to lower current supermajorities at the state and local level."
- Approved sending to the executive officers for consideration by the appropriate CTA committee the exploration of the application of a sales tax on the sale of California real estate as an ongoing source of revenue for public schools.