By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
We are in the midst of a critical period in the history of our association and our country. Self-interest and bad economic policies are destroying our democracy and making it almost impossible for the middle class to survive. Corporate greed, which led to the subprime mortgage meltdown, shined a light on the growing inequality in this country. If we allow corporations to continue to get the upper hand, all gaps will widen: the income gap, the opportunity gap, the achievement gap. Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his second inaugural address (and it still rings true today), “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics.”
We’ve seen the results of this imbalance play out here in California, too, with double-digit unemployment rates, 40,000-plus educators losing their jobs, families struggling to pay for food and health care, and one in four students now living in poverty. And all the while, CEOs are banking record profits and refusing to pay their fair share. This inequitable situation can no longer be ignored.
Well, our chance to set things right is now, and we’ll begin by planning for the upcoming November election. It’s important we all know what we are facing and understand the many moving parts that will affect our schools and our profession. For the third time, a harmful “paycheck deception” initiative that is designed to silence our united voice has qualified for the ballot. In addition to the governor’s tax initiative, two competing funding initiatives are being circulated for signatures. And a handful of business groups have filed a spending cap initiative to cut school funding and limit future state spending. All of these initiatives are reason for concern.
There’s a lot of intricate political motion happening this year in a lot of different directions — but what everyone can agree on is that our state is moving in the wrong direction and something must be done to fix it. A critical initiative on the ballot is the “paycheck deception” initiative, which prevents our union from advocating for our profession or our state, but continues to allow corporations to lobby for their own interests. Educators would lose their collective voice in school board races, on matters like class sizes and safety issues, and in supporting state and national candidates who support public schools and colleges. If the system were left in the hands of CEOs, we may be saying goodbye to the 40-hour work week, a secure retirement, and safe working conditions — all basic workers’ rights our union and others fought so hard for over the past century.
During this election process, CTA will also be joining a broad coalition to help pass a viable funding initiative. It is clear that California cannot cut its way out of its ongoing, burgeoning budget problem. It is well past time for a progressive tax increase, and the governor’s initiative is the best chance we have to raise the revenues necessary to properly fund our schools. The plan raises income taxes on households earning $500,000 and raises taxes even higher for those earning more than $1 million. The proposal also includes a half-cent sales tax increase. The governor’s initiative is the only proposal out there that directly helps reduce the state budget deficit. Without that component, our schools and colleges are facing another $5 billion cut. By joining a broad coalition of labor, community and business groups, CTA can help to pass this important initiative and help California deal with state budget problems.
Together we have a powerful voice and tremendous energy. As educators, we can help bring about change. We need to do it for our schools, our students, and for ourselves. We can help lead the way to a prosperous future for everyone.