In It to Win It
The old adage “all politics is local,” where truly understanding your community and its needs are key to political success, is proving to be a driving force for many CTA chapters in the Fall 2018 election. These chapters know that in the political process, their unified voice, and mobilizing and organizing acumen have the power to make positive change for schools, the teaching profession, students, and the community. We asked several chapter presidents why and how they are supporting issues and candidates, and what success looks like.
UNIFIED ASSOCIATION OF CONEJO TEACHERS
Colleen Briner-Schmidt, President; 839 members Conejo Valley Unified School District (27 schools)
“One of UACT’s allies is stepping down from the school board and we seek to flip the other two open positions to education-friendly candidates. We’re also supporting candidates for community college trustee seats.”
“UACT has always had a political action committee (PAC) and has endorsed candidates in the past. However, in the last election anti-public education forces took control of the school board. This resulted in name-calling of students and educators by both board members and the public, censorship of literature used in classrooms, violations of the Brown Act, and more.
“We are supporting candidates who believe we should provide the best possible education for all students in the district, and who believe in attending to the issues of the district without imposing personal agendas.”
UNITED TEACHERS OF RICHMOND CTA/NEA
Demetrio Gonzalez, President; 1750 members West Contra Costa Unified School District (54 schools)
“UTR is supporting a slate of three school board candidates and a city initiative that will fund community organizations that work with at-risk youth. We’re also working to make sure our community knows the importance of the State Superintendent of Instruction race, and are deeply involved in county board races since local control around charter schools has not been respected by our county in the past.
“In the last few election cycles we have had to organize more of our members to be involved because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on our opponents by organizations such as the Charter School Association. WCCUSD was one of the first places where the charter school industry put hundreds of thousands of dollars on candidates.”
“Teachers, parents, labor, and students are supporting our school board candidates because they have dedicated their personal lives and careers to supporting students and educators. All three candidates understand what it takes to run a large urban district. Part of their platform is advocating for increased funding, especially through per-pupil funding and the LCFF and LCAP.”
“A few months ago, UTR proposed to our labor partners to form a West County Labor Coalition in WCCUSD, to coordinate the endorsement process, sponsor candidate forums, form a common language and platform, and provide support during campaigns. It consists of nine labor groups including teachers, classified staff, police, supervisors, firefighters, building trades and labor councils. By working together we’ll be more successful in getting our candidates elected.
“UTR requested the maximum contribution from ABC. Even though we have chosen to raise our PAC contributions locally after 14 years, we still need support from ABC as well as staff to fight the large amount of funding being poured in by the charter industry.
“Success is not measured just by winning seats but by the creation of larger relationships with community organizations, families and leaders. With the West County Labor Coalition we are already seeing a partnership that didn’t exist before. No matter what the result of the election, these relationships create a pathway for us to continue advocating together for what our students, educators and families need in our community.”
Election 2018: Special Report
Follow the links below to continue reading about the election and candidates in this feature.
Running with Values – CTA members enter political races
Meet the Candidates – Leaders aligned with our values
A Closer Look – Tony Thurmond vs. Marshall Tuck
In Their Own Words – Educators on why Tuck should not be SPI
Initiatives to Know – CTA positions on statewide propositions
Tom Torlakson – The outgoing schools chief on his legacy
LONG BEACH CITY COLLEGE FACULTY ASSOCIATION
Janét Hund, president; 334 members
“Make your vote count and your voice heard.” That long-held belief by the LBCCFA translates into power at the ballot box and support after elections. LBCCFA is involved in elections at all levels, but the local ones are most important, says President Janét Hund. “We work collaboratively and assertively with our trustees for the betterment of our students, our faculty and our community. The last election was a positive experience for members as they helped to elect another faculty-friendly trustee. We now have a board majority.”
FRESNO TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
Manuel Bonilla, president; 4,000 members Fresno Unified School District, 106 schools
“We have four regions for school board seats. We’ve endorsed candidates in two regions. In one, instead of endorsing one candidate, we said, ‘these three each have a unique vision we can support. They would be open and honest and willing to dialogue with us.’ This allows teachers to support the candidate they are most comfortable with.
“During the candidate interview and evaluation, we asked that they commit to meeting with us twice a month. We have found that to get something done in this district, we must have board members willing to communicate and actually meet with teachers.”
“Board members need to understand the voice and expertise of teachers. If they don’t want to work with us or are unwilling to listen, they will not get our endorsement. We want reasonable people in those seats, not to rubber stamp, but to make informed decisions.
“Teachers’ voices should be heard not after budget allocation, but during the budgeting process. We are trying to engage in the process this year, which means we’re bargaining now, during the process, so allocations are made alongside contract decisions and tentative agreements.”
“The endorsement process is run through our PAC, which interviewed candidates and made recommendations to the rep council. We framed the evaluation form with three broad questions: Does this candidate share similar educational values? Will they be able to communicate and work with us? Will they be able to work with colleagues at the board level? Budget was also a major issue.
“For our endorsed candidates, teachers are canvassing neighborhoods and attending forums. We applied for and received an ABC grant.
“Success happens when all FTA-endorsed candidates are elected; long-term success comes through the process — we’re looking for constant communication, someone who understands teachers’ needs. Our work benefits Fresno’s 74,000 students and their families.”
LINCOLN UNIFIED TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
Tiffany Fuhrmeister, president; 471 members Lincoln Unified School District, 12 schools
“We are supporting two candidates this year in our school board races. Terry Tutupalli is a retired school teacher from our district, and a big advocate of working together with educators to make decisions that are in the best interest of students. Samantha Chan is an LUSD parent with a long history of volunteering in the classroom and sharing her love for art.
“LUTA has never had a PAC, so this is a new venture for our chapter.”
“Most of our school board members have been appointed to their seats and don’t have a well-rounded view of what is happening in our schools. LUTA leadership has attended every board meeting and we realized that board members would just rubber- stamp what the superintendent told them. It was clear that many of the important decisions being made were not always in the best interest of students, community and educators.
“LUTA wants to support a teacher- friendly board member who will make decisions after researching all options and information and not just because the cabinet says it is what is best for the district. We also want a board member who will demand that the district is transparent with the budget and encourage collaboration with teachers to provide quality professional development.”
“We are helping candidates by phone banking, precinct walking, sending mailers and distributing yard signs. Our CTA staff was instrumental in helping us successfully apply for ABC funds.
“In the last year, we encouraged more of our members to become involved in bargaining, as we expanded our bargaining team from four people to about 25. Through this, we were able to find new leaders to serve on our PAC. Because of these changes, members are more informed and engaged in our association. Having more voice in our direction has been a huge success in itself. Our new endeavor with this campaign has invigorated LUTA and brought hope and excitement, which in turn brings us together to campaign for real change.”
PERRIS ELEMENTARY TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
Sarah Rowbotham, president; 300 members Perris Elementary School District; 8 schools
“PETA has endorsed Dana McLead, Michelle Maisel and Maribel Nava in the school board election. In the past, PETA endorsed candidates who won and did not represent teachers’ interests or take the time to fully understand the depth of concerns by our unit members, parents and community. The current school board does not question what the district tells them.”
“Our PAC interviewed candidates, then our executive board and rep council agreed on candidates that our PAC proposed for endorsement. As a chapter, PETA is handing out flyers, campaigning door-to-door and walking the neighborhoods.
“We have a local PAC fund and are getting ABC funds.
“Success would be having all three of our endorsed candidates win the election. Even if all three do not win, it will still have been a successful campaign because as an association, we brought attention to the various concerns.”
MENIFEE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
Shelli Sullivan, president; 470 members Menifee Union School District, 14 schools
“MTA has endorsed school board candidates Kyle Root, Jackie Johansen and Kenyon Jenkins.”
“MTA has met many challenges over the last quarter-century as their community has grown from a small, unincorporated area to a city of more than 75,000. The need for visionary leadership is clear, with issues of continued growth and district unification still unresolved. MTA leaders describe their slate of candidates as longstanding, respected members of the community who will advance a student-centered agenda where everyone has the tools, resources, and opportunities necessary for success. MTA endorsed a slate of school board members in each of the open trustee areas. If successful, the new board majority will ensure the future is secured for students, teachers and the school district.”
CALAVERAS UNIFIED EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Lorraine Angel, president; 150 members Calaveras Unified School District, 10 schools
“CUEA is actively supporting three school board candidates by providing campaign strategy and planning; educating candidates on LCAP and LCFF and related student resource issues; mailing and phone banking.”
“CUEA went on strike in October 2017 because of a lack of support for students and teachers. Class size, school safety and attracting/retaining qualified teachers were major issues.
“Since the strike, we’ve seen the importance of having a good relationship with the school board, and having board members we can communicate with.”
“We set up a political action committee and 146 of 150 members decided to donate to the PAC. We applied for ABC funds and we’ve had lots of support from CTA staff. We had a six teacher panel interview our candidates.
“Success will be on election night when we see our candidates win — that will give us three of five on the board who will be teacher-friendly.”