By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
Last month, while presiding at CTA’s State Council of Education, I had the pleasure of meeting three of this year’s California Teachers of the Year. As I listened to Rebecca Mieliwocki, who is also one of the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year, addressing our members, she reminded me of something important. She said, “As educators, we have a front row seat to the future.” I’ve thought a lot about that since March. How she phrased the importance of the work we do really got me thinking about what our future could look like.
We have a clear picture of the past four years, but what about the next four? How will we ensure more opportunities for the success for our students, and how will we help put our state back on the road to recovery? I wish there was one easy answer, but there isn’t. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.
In addition to the work each of you does every day to challenge, educate and inspire students, we have to challenge, educate and inspire our fellow Californians this election year. We must lead the way to a better California and a better future. And Californians are looking to us to do just that. Research poll after research poll continues to show that teachers are some of the most respected members of their communities. When teachers talk, people listen.
And that’s why I’m asking you to use your voice this campaign season to bring awareness to the issues facing your school and community. Speak up about how the Corporate Power Grab Initiative is designed to silence the voice of the middle class. Let your friends and neighbors know that if they take away your ability to advocate for your students and your profession, they are taking away the chance of a better tomorrow — for everyone.
When politicians want to raise class sizes to save money, we say no, our students deserve the chance to get the individual attention they need to succeed. When politicians label schools and students based on the results of one high-stakes test, we cry foul and make sure they understand that our students are more than one test score. And when politicians cower to corporations seeking to profit from the “business” of education, we say educating students is our business and they need more resources, not less.
In fact, there’s an important fact I’d like to share. California has the ninth-largest economy in the world but ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to per-pupil spending. It’s hard to comprehend, right? But it’s true. That’s why we must also let fellow Californians know our schools and colleges need more funding. Luckily, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 is quickly making its way to the November ballot at the hands of a growing coalition. This new initiative is projected to bring in nearly $9 billion annually to pay down the state’s wall of debt and to provide specific, additional funding for schools, colleges and other essential services. This initiative also helps fix many of the structural budget problems that have kept California from rebounding as quickly as it should have.
These are just two of the important issues that voters are looking for our leadership on. There are also local, state and federal candidates and many local bond measures.
A front row seat to the future is an awesome purview, but with it comes awesome responsibility. We know our students count on us. You should know the rest of California is counting on us, too. Join me this campaign season in leading the way to a better future. Together, we can put California back on a well-paved road to recovery and help create brighter futures for all of us.