By Dave Earl Carpenter
At a San Francisco rally, performers support education with songs about saving education.
Great public rallies, like the March 4 events across California and the nation, can often set the stage for even greater victories that shed light on social inequities. CTA’s statewide “Cuts Hurt” bus tour in 2008 and Pink Friday in 2009 were perfect examples of events that scored huge gains for education and were instrumental in winning back $11 billion in the form of repayments owed to education. But these well-received events are just one piece of the puzzle. Rallies inspire the public and can create energy around a position, but they often require continuing effort afterward to keep the flame alive.
“This ongoing action is really about taking our communities back,” says Dean Vogel, CTA vice president and chair of the Education Funding Workgroup, a team of CTA leaders tasked with helping to develop a plan to move education funding forward. “If our conversation with the public is to be just about schools, we lose a tremendous opportunity. We need to engage the public and demonstrate how important the bond is between successful schools and successful communities and a brighter future.”
Taking our communities back — that’s the larger vision of how we connect to one another and pursue common interests for the future of California. The March 4 events demonstrated that a great number of supporters are standing up for public schools. People care. A broad spectrum of labor, nonprofits, local elected leaders, school officials, parents, students and many others gathered together on March 4 to recognize that our communities are being damaged by the willful abandonment of our schools.
If we’re to address the issues of education in our state, the place to start is demonstrating to the community and to the Legislature that the stability of the California budget relies upon making some large changes. Restructuring the tax code is one step, closing corporate loopholes and asking lucrative businesses to pay their fair share. We also need to support elected officials and candidates who support education, including our next governor. We’ve seen what an unsupportive governor can do, and now we need to elect one who will truly make education a priority and assist in rebuilding a stronger California.
CTA members have already started acting at the local level, engaging the community to talk about how to best maintain our March 4 momentum. Many Southern California chapters, for example, are bringing together local school leaders to host education forums, discussing strategies about mobilizing for change. They’ve identified that it is important to be there in our local neighborhoods, talking with the community every chance we get.
Groups like the CTA Strategy Workgroup are also focusing on CTA’s comprehensive goals and objectives. “We are working with chapter presidents and members to help them talk to the community about the issues facing our schools today,” says Mikki Cichocki, chair of the Strategy Workgroup. As part of this strategy committee, CTA leaders are “coordinating information from various workgroups, such as Public Education Funding, ESEA, Race to the Top, and Campaign 2010, to present members with a comprehensive strategy for the future.”
You’ll read in these pages how CTA members and the community came together for March 4 to defend public education — 12,000 concerned citizens on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco; people protesting in Riverside in massive numbers, capturing the attention of national news; supporters braving the morning cold and fog in Willits, in Northern California; parents marching side by side with educators at intersections and school parking lots. The community was engaged on March 4 — is engaged now. Each of us can focus on the goal of bringing our communities back together to show how much we all care about our students and the future of our state.
Related Tags: Volume 14 Issue 6, Educator Feature, Inside Educator, Educator, Union, Teacher, Student, Protest, Organize, Member, Layoffs, Jobs, Funding, Higher Education, Employment, Community, Budget,