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May June 2014 Council Decides

President Vogel Warns of Dangers Posed by Schools Chief Candidate Tuck

"Voters must re-elect Tom Torlakson, a proven leader and advocate for our students, as state superintendent of public instruction, or face the dangers that corporate education reformer Marshall Tuck poses to our public schools," CTA President Dean E. Vogel said in his speech to Council delegates just days before the June 3 Primary Election.

Torlakson has "led efforts to expand career and technical education. And he knows how important it is for our students to develop critical thinking skills, rather than just learning how to bubble in a standardized test," Vogel said. "Marshall Tuck, on the other hand, is not one of us."

(Thanks to CTA members turning out the vote, Torlakson secured about 46.3 percent of the votes cast in the Primary and will face Tuck in the November General Election; Tuck managed 29 percent of the vote. A remarkable 94 percent of CTA-endorsed state and federal candidates prevailed in the election, and 76 percent of CTA-backed local candidates, school bonds and parcel taxes won.)

While Torlakson worked with us to pass Prop. 30 in 2012 and to enact the acclaimed Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 that has helped tens of thousands of low-income students succeed, Tuck's intentions are dangerous, Vogel said.

"His agenda is a full-out assault on educators' rights," Vogel warned, noting that Tuck favors increasing the probationary period to up to 10 years. "He supports more testing, evaluating teachers based on test scores and paying teachers based on test scores. He supports the Vergara lawsuit and proudly takes credit for instigating challenges that led to the case. He wants to eliminate an educator's right to a hearing before being dismissed."

Eli Broad and other Wall Street billionaires are backing Tuck because "he supports allowing private companies to run our public schools with taxpayer money."

State Council delegates took the time to make more than 5,300 calls during the weekend for Torlakson and Tim Sbranti, the former chair of the Council's Political Involvement Committee, who is running for the Assembly District 16 seat in the Bay Area. (Our GOTV worked, as Sbranti made the November runoff and anti-union political consultant Steve Glazer did not.)

In other challenges, Vogel said an Illinois case known as Harris v. Quinn before the U.S. Supreme Court could result in CTA and all public employee unions losing the right to charge fair share fees – fees charged to non-members for the cost of bargaining work CTA does on their behalf. Other pending lawsuits attack this right as well.

Vogel said this threat is one reason why CTA, with our new Strategic Plan as a long-term guide, is in the midst of a rebirth of an organizing culture. This mobilization is "about talking to colleagues about the benefits of belonging to a union," he said. "It's about getting out of our classrooms and into our communities. We must recommit to organizing and activism."

Delegates Greet Torlakson Speech With Strong Applause

In recognition of his accomplishments in office and his respect for public education, Council delegates greeted a warm speech by Tom Torlakson with frequent applause for the state superintendent of public instruction. He made it clear that voters have a real choice – re-elect a proven educator like himself, or elect Marshall Tuck, a corporate education reformer and former Wall Street trader backed by wealthy interests.

"My opponent says teachers have way too much to say in California and he wants to roll back your rights so private interests can step in," Torlakson warned. "Our message is clear – our schools are no place for Wall Street speculation, and the trading floor of Salomon Brothers is no training ground for the superintendent of public instruction of California."

Torlakson noted his dedication to our students of greatest need – he authored the 2006 legislation that created the acclaimed Quality Education Investment Act to spend $3 billion for at-risk schools on proven reforms like smaller class sizes over eight years. High school graduation rates are at their highest level ever. "Do we keep California moving forward in the right direction?" he asked. "Or do we take a huge step backwards?"

He concluded: "As a teacher with you, I'm proud to say that we've had enough – enough of the attacks on our profession, our work and our unions. We're standing up and fighting back. Let's beat the billionaires. We can do it!"

Watch the full 11-minute speech here.

Executive Director Nuñez Talks About Welcoming Charter School Members Into CTA

Executive Director Joe Nuñez reported in his speech to Council how CTA members are getting organized this year in several key arenas – politics, battling attacks on fair share fees, and unionizing California charter schools.

"A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire," he said about chapter members' successes in bargaining, recruitment and community organizing. "You have all been setting fires."

Feeling the heat are the owners of the California Virtual Academies (CAVA), the largest K-12 online charter school in the state with 700 employees and 17,000 students. In what Nuñez called a "significant and actually historic undertaking," CTA helped a team of 50 CAVA educators start on the road toward unionizing by gathering signatures from a majority of their colleagues and filing them with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

By early July, PERB will decide whether there is majority union support before declaring by "card check" whether CTA can be the exclusive representative. The anti-union parent company of CAVA, called K-12 Inc., may take steps to slow this process. That company spent millions to defeat the only other organizing campaign against one of its operations, in Pennsylvania.

In the Bay Area, educators at a small charter school in Alameda are bargaining their first contract, Nuñez noted. CTA staff helped employees of Community Learning Center Schools unionize. In other charter organizing plans, CTA is holding a July training and outreach program in the Bay Area, and has started "regional meetings of union charter school leaders in different parts of the state to talk about how we can coordinate bargaining and address political issues that are important to charter schools."

With court challenges to fair share fees mounting, CTA is preparing for the day when it might not be able to charge educators for the cost of bargaining on their behalf. Nuñez said he appointed a task force of CTA managers to look at options, reached out to state affiliates that lost fair share rights, and served on an NEA committee that developed a Fair Share Tool Kit to help reconnect educators to unionism.

"We're organizing for power to engage members and build local capacity," he said. "We will be ready!"

In other actions, State Council:

· Elected two new members of the CTA Board of Directors: Jerry Eaton for District A and Sergio Martinez for District K. Their terms of office are June 26, 2014, through June 25, 2017. Eaton replaced Larry Allen and Martinez replaced Don Bridge, both of whom were termed out.

· Elected Robert Ellis as NEA Alternate Director for Seat 1 for a term of office from Sept. 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2017.

· Voted to support the November ballot initiative by Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, which would change the lowest-level, nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors – and dedicate the savings to crime prevention. Council opposed the "MICRA" ballot measure that would make it easier and more profitable for lawyers to sue doctors and hospitals. Council also approved spending up to $4 million from the Initiative Fund to support CTA's positions in the November general election.

· Engaged in a lively discussion on the floor about how to close the CalSTRS funding gap, and voted overwhelmingly to support Governor Jerry Brown's collaborative approach requiring more payments by all stakeholders, the state, school districts and educators. The governor's plan is outlined in extensive pension background supplied to delegates by the Retirement Committee.

· Received a detailed report from the Assessment and Testing Committee examining California's participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium trial tests this spring for millions of students. Costs, impacts on learning and abilities of districts to implement were among the issues investigated.

· Honored June as national GLBT Pride Month with a special presentation about civil rights struggles that was coordinated by Darren Day and Amy Hall, co-chairs of the CTA GLBT Issues Advisory Committee.

· Voted to have CTA disseminate a "myths and facts" resource sheet on California's parent-trigger law so that school sites are aware of the threats posed by "corporate-backed reform groups and outside special interest groups."

· Held a special awards ceremony hosted by the Communications Committee to honor the 22 winners of the 55th annual CTA John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

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