By Len Feldman
Backed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and hundreds of education leaders and parents, CTA Board member Toby Boyd (at lectern) tell reporters that class sizes have grown to 40 or more, making it extremely difficult for teachers to give students the individual attention they need.
CTA members and hundreds of other school employees, school board members, parents and administrators rallied at the state Capitol on March 14 to urge lawmakers to support Gov. Brown’s budget proposal and to place before the voters a ballot measure to extend the state’s temporary taxes.
The rally and lobbying, supported by the Education Coalition, came one day before the deadline for school districts to give certificated educators their preliminary layoff notices. (CTA and other Education Coalition partners were expecting thousands of school supporters to wear red on March 15 to show their solidarity with the educators who are receiving the notices. More than 19,000 had received notices in mid-March.)
These efforts in the Capitol and around the state aim to achieve two objectives: to muster legislative support for Gov. Brown’s budget proposal that seeks to protect schools; and to secure the two-thirds vote required to put the temporary tax extension measure before the voters.
In mid-March, the Legislature had passed many of the measures implementing the cuts side of the governor’s spending proposal, a plan that would reduce state programs by $12.5 billion. But Republican lawmakers were refusing to vote for two other key measures, denying the bills that needed a two-thirds vote. They were refusing to support the governor’s proposal to put the tax extension before the voters. They were also refusing to vote for a measure that would transfer funds from redevelopment agencies to schools, a change that would provide education with more than $13.7 billion over the next decade.
The governor had hoped to have the budget completed and the tax extension approved for the ballot by mid-March. His ambitious timeline would have had a state budget in place more than three months earlier than required by the state constitution. He is still pushing lawmakers to move the budget package quickly and give the needed two-thirds approval for the tax extension early enough so voters can cast ballots in June.
The Republican lawmakers with whom he has been negotiating have been demanding a high price for their votes. The items on their list include a spending cap that could prevent the state from restoring education cuts. Other items include massive cuts in teacher and public worker pensions, something being touted as “pension reform” by proponents.
During the March 14 Capitol rally, school supporters made clear exactly what was at stake. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told reporters, “We’re here for a simple reason: Our schools face a financial emergency — and they can’t wait any longer for our help.”
Toby Boyd, a member of the CTA Board of Directors and a kindergarten teacher in the Elk Grove Unified School District just south of Sacramento, reported that 700 of the teachers in his district would receive layoff notices by March 15. He said class sizes in his district were approaching 40, a number making it virtually impossible to provide students with the individual attention they need.
Speaking for the Education Coalition, Bob Wells, the executive director of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), said he was confident voters would approve the tax extension measure if lawmakers would just move it to the ballot. The refusal to give voters the choice would be “undemocratic,” he emphasized.
CTA and coalition members have been contacting all legislators. These contacts have included the person-to-person meetings in the Capitol, meetings with constituents in legislators’ home district offices, and phone calls and letters to both locations.