By Len Feldman
CTA Board Member Elana Davidson at a Capitol news conference in May expressing the Association's support for AB 2492.
CTA and the Education Coalition are mobilizing more than a million teachers, education support professionals, parents, school employees, school board members, administrators, and other school supporters to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newest budget proposal of over $3.8 billion in additional cuts to public education.
A key element of the coalition effort is securing signatures from lawmakers on “commitment cards” that commit lawmakers to vote against any new cuts to school funding and to honor the agreement they reached and the governor signed into law last year. The Education Coalition has been posting the names of lawmakers who have already signed the commitment cards on a new website, www.promisetostudents.com, and CTA chapter presidents and legislative contact teams are hard at work seeking additional signatures.
The coalition is engaged in intensive efforts urging lawmakers to honor their 2009 commitment. Schools have already suffered more than $17 billion in cuts — roughly 60 percent of all the reductions — leaving public education in a state of severe crisis. Lawmakers are charged with reviewing the governor’s plan and putting together their own spending plan, which goes back to him for his signature.
“Schools around the state have been devastated by the cuts that have already hit them,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “The newest cuts will force more layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer nurses and counselors, and other reductions that are harming a generation of our students.”
The governor’s newest round of cuts, announced on May 14 as part of the May Revision, an update of the governor’s January spending plan proposal, includes the education cuts he proposed in January. It also reduces school funding by another $1.4 billion by eliminating the state’s child care programs, which are funded through the state’s constitutional school funding mechanism, Proposition 98. By eliminating these programs, the governor is effectively reducing the amount of the Proposition 98 guarantee to schools for years to come. The bigger point is that it harms kids.
Timeline for action
Lawmakers are working against a June 15 constitutional deadline for sending the governor their own final budget proposal. The state constitution requires the governor to make his line-item vetoes and then sign the final plan into law prior to the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
In recent years, those budget deadlines have been missed much more often than met. Often, the budget agreements haven’t been reached until late in the summer or early in the fall.
At press time, CTA presidents from around the state were getting ready to converge on the state Capitol as part of the May 25 Presidents Lobby Day. During that event, they will be making lawmakers aware of the effects that the already adopted cuts are having on their local schools. They will be urging lawmakers to reject any further reductions for schools and colleges.
Solutions for budget shortfall
CTA firmly believes that the governor and lawmakers have the responsibility to find new state revenues to support vital services, including schools. At the same time, the association has been supporting efforts to close loopholes for both state corporate income and property taxes, which have allowed U.S. and multinational companies to escape paying billions of dollars in their fair share of the costs of state programs. CTA has collected enough signatures to qualify the Repeal Corporate Tax Loopholes initiative for the November ballot. However, legislators can and should take care of this injustice before November as part of the budget solution.