Vote Yes on Prop. 30 and No on 32
By Ron Norton Reel, CCA President
There is much at stake in November, which is why this issue of the Advocate is devoted almost entirely to the election. Yes, there is an important presidential election, but in California, there’s two initiatives on the ballot that will directly affect our profession, our students, and, our ability to advocate for both.
But if you look at the issues, it’s even more important than that. This election could signal the last gasp of the middle class that generations before us worked so hard to create. I realize I’m a speech and rhetoric teacher, but I am not overstating the reality that faces us.
Initiatives go hand-in-hand
These two important initiatives on the ballot go hand in hand. One is Proposition 30, the Schools and Public Safety Protection Act that provides billions for schools, colleges and essential public services and pays down the state’s wall of debt by asking the wealthiest in the state to pay more of their fair share of taxes.
With the severe decline in state funding, the chickens have come home to roost. A recent survey from the Chancellor’s office reveals that enrollment in California community colleges has dropped 17 percent since 2008. That’s nearly a half million students have been shut out. The number of courses has declined by 24 percent statewide since 2008, as the system was drained of $809 million or 12 percent of its funding.
Although Prop. 30 won’t restore all the cuts that have been made to California’s schools and colleges, it will prevent further devastating cuts that will wreak havoc on our schools. If Prop. 30 fails, we will face another $6 billion in cuts this year – and that’s on top of the $20 billion we’ve had in the past four years.
But funding initiatives like Prop. 30 will be impossible if we don’t defeat another initiative on the ballot, Prop. 32.
Special Exemptions Act
Proposition 32, the “Special Exemptions Act” will make it even easier for super PACs to buy our elections while rendering us virtually powerless to do anything about it. This is an even sneakier and more abhorrent retread of two other previous initiatives that were handily defeated over the past decade. You’d think that the two previous defeats of this initiative would have put the matter to rest. Instead, the backers of the initiative have worked harder to create a more deceptive proposal.
Simply put, Proposition 32 on November’s ballot is not what it seems. It’s presented on the ballot as a sort of “leveling the playing field” act by prohibiting corporations and unions alike from using dues for political purposes. But what is hidden in all that is that corporations don’t use employees dues for politics, they use their profits, and already outspend unions by 15 to 1. The real agenda is to weaken unions. Why? Once unions are out of the way, it will be so much easier for the people behind this measure to privatize public education, cut jobs, wages and our secure retirement.
Secret super PACs
The initiative exempts secretive super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporate special interests and billionaire businessmen to support their candidates or defeat their enemies and does nothing to prevent anonymous donors from spending unlimited amounts to influence elections. Corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade on ballot measures and independent expenditure campaigns in our state. Prop 32 does nothing to change that – and instead, secretive super PACs will become the law of the land in California, with no checks or balances or accountability.
Locally, CCA chapters will be prevented from contributing to elect faculty-friendly trustees, participate in parcel tax and bond elections. Over the years, our members have become more involved in these elections at the local level because they have recognized the importance of having a voice at the board level. In many cases, it has made a direct difference in the contract our locals have been able to negotiate.
All this sounds paranoiac, but it’s not. We’ve seen what happened in Wisconsin and Ohio, when elected officials used their power to attempt to eliminate collective bargaining. Writing in the Huffington Post, former Wisconsin teacher Shaun Johnson reported that the average teachers’ salary dropped by as much as $2,000 since Gov. Scott Walker took aim at teachers, and more “strongly conservative education reforms, like voucher programs and the elimination of tenure protections, will arrive unabashedly as a new and very powerful political mandate establishes itself.”
But California is the big prize, and California is where we must draw a line in the sand. Come November, community college faculty must join teachers, nurses, firefighters, police, working people and Californians everywhere to protect and uphold the middle class in this state. Vote Yes on Proposition 30 and No on Proposition 32.