Volume 46 Number 1
Here are my reasons
By Ron Norton Reel, Ph.D.
As a relatively well-educated person, (AA, BA, MA, PhD), I like to think of myself as one capable of making the best decisions possible for me, my family, and my profession. However, this year I had to reexamine my political loyalty and dedication to arrive at what I feel is best for the educational community that I love and support.
As a Republican, I am torn between voting the party line and voting what in my heart I know is best. I want to share with you how I came to this conclusion by comparing how both candidates for governor stand on the issues that matter most to those of us in education.
Funding for education
The first issue I want to discuss concerns funding for education. My fellow Republican, Meg Whitman, wants to cut $15 billion from the state budget. The end result of this would be to take a cut of an additional $7 billion from our schools and colleges. She also supports eliminating anti-poverty programs. I was born to parents that could not read or write. My parents were farm workers. There were weeks at a time we only had flour gravy and biscuits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am the only member of my family of 11 brothers and sisters to earn any college degrees. I am a living example of how education can make a difference in taking a person out of the fields and allowing an opportunity to become a public servant to teach and change the lives of others who found themselves in similar situations. Jerry Brown, when governor, doubled state funding for higher education. I was able to benefit from such funding and received a complete textbook and tuition scholarship while earning my bachelor’s degree. In addition, One of the greatest legislative events to take place for community colleges was Proposition 98, which includes community colleges and is supported by Jerry Brown.
The second issue I want to discuss concerns secured retirement. I am currently 60 years old. I have begun looking at retirement in the present. Before, it seemed that retirement was for those who are old. I find myself being part of that group of society I once considered old, even though I have heard that 60 is the new 40. Meg Whitman supports converting secure, defined benefit pension plans to 401(k)s for new public employees. I have maintained for the past 36 years that all faculty members should be treated fairly and be paid accordingly. I don’t want to see our new employees having a different and inferior retirement program placed upon them. I, like many other Californian’s, lost much of what I wanted as a retirement buffer because of the recent stock market crash and decreases in portfolio investment. However, I took great pride in knowing my STRS retirement was guaranteed under the California Constitution and could not be altered. Jerry Brown opposes converting CalSTRS and CalPERS retirement systems from secure, defined benefit plans to risky 401(k) contribution plans.
The third and final issue I want to discuss is employee rights. As CCA president, I believe in union rights. I believe the union has been responsible for my pay and working conditions. The local collective bargaining contract at my college is a reflection of how my colleagues and I have risen to face the challenges of work-related issues. I am proud to be part of the history of the union at my college. I am also just as proud to be a part of the previous and future presidents of the Community College Association. Our union looks out after the interest of faculty members and students statewide. Meg Whitman wants to reduce the number of public employees by 40,000. She wants to limit union participation in the political process. This hurts me to the bone. My union participation is a side of me that results in great pleasure and provides the strength to stand up to those that might hurt my profession and the students I support and love. Jerry Brown signed the first collective bargaining bill in California’s history. I know that people who teach in the private sector without collective bargaining have not made the same progress that I have, thanks to my union.
So, as a California Republican, I must vote for what is best for me, my family, my profession, my college, state, and the Community College Association. I must support and vote for Jerry Brown to be the next governor of California. I ask each and every one of our members to examine the issues surrounding education and to vote for the one that will best meet those needs.