David A. Sanchez,
As president of CTA, I find reasons every day to be proud to hold this position. In the midst of unprecedented economic turmoil across the state of California - and the loss of 16,000 fellow CTA teachers this year - it's encouraging to know that our students are being taken care of by such a compassionate and exceptional workforce of educators. You are everyday champions dedicated to the work of teaching our state's children, even through these worst of economic times. Your efforts make their lives better and their future more promising.
That's why this year we'll need to make sure the public understands what these unprecedented budget cuts have been doing to our schools and to the educational opportunities of our students. Unfortunately, it looks like California is facing another deficit year. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office predicts that the state deficit will be nearly $20 billion by the end of 2010 - and that's on top of a $60 billion two-year shortfall. Public education, which makes up roughly 40 percent of state expenditures, took nearly 60 percent of the cuts over the past two years, and is headed for a cataclysmic demise unless lawmakers find adequate means of funding. We, the educators in CTA, are going to have to lead the charge to protect public school funding again this year. And that means changing the way Sacramento does business, and does business with big business. We have filed an initiative that will close the tax loopholes that were handed out last year to large corporations while schools and colleges were cut by $17 billion. At our January State Council meeting, we will be deciding how to move forward with this and other initiatives. We can no longer let large corporations escape paying their fair share at the expense of our children's education. We've faced many battles in the past - and, unfortunately, we'll face many more as 2010 plays out.
Also heating up is the debate centered on Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. Competition for one-time federal education funds, of which California would receive no more than $700 million, will require that states fall in line with certain federal guidelines - guidelines that, in their first draft, looked more like the same No Child Left Behind (NCLB) sanctions than the change the Obama administration promised.
With your help, we convinced U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that California students were more than a single test score, and so were our teachers. In the final RTTT regulations, the department acknowledged that multiple measures are necessary to recognize student achievement and teacher effectiveness. And while we don't agree with all the requirements, there were significant improvements in the final regulations.
As California legislators jockey to make California comply with RTTT guidelines, CTA knows the real issue is that the RTTT guidelines will be the basis for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The past mistakes made with NCLB need to be erased and rewritten, not built upon. Current RTTT guidelines continue to dole out more sanctions and less support for our lower-performing schools and rely on unproven reforms to turn those schools around. CTA would like to help build a public education system that recognizes multiple measures of student achievement and closes existing achievement gaps with proven reforms. So when the Obama administration begins the process of reauthorizing ESEA next year, we will be there to make sure educators' voices are heard and are part of the process.
Thankfully, I know we can count on the strength and organization of all the members of this great union to see us through what lies ahead. All of you are everyday champions - teachers, paraprofessionals, librarians, custodians, nurses, speech therapists, and counselors, to name just a few - and can help to see us through this struggle. You have a great effect on the future of our students and on our state's future prosperity.
¡Sí Se Puede!
¿Por Qué No?
[Yes we can! Why not?], words inspired by César Chávez, encourage us to remember that, together, we can achieve great things.