Schools and Communities First Takes Center Stage at Issues Conference 2020
You know that old saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” Well, that was certainly not the case for over vibrant 800 CTA members who flooded the Tropicana’s Conference Center on the Las Vegas Strip. Every year, the Issues Conference provides an opportunity for educators from rural, urban, and ESP local areas, throughout the state, to learn, share, strategize and unite to determine the future of public education. Members with diverse interests and multiple perspectives reconnected with fellow educators and strategized solutions to confront the challenges we are facing together. This year’s focus was on the Schools and Communities First initiative, which would close corporate property tax loopholes to generate $12 billion a year for public schools and community services. CTA has committed to gathering 150,000 of the 1.6 million signatures needed to qualify SCF for the November 2020 ballot. Members will take what they learned this weekend and apply it to their work in collecting the signatures needed to qualify the initiative.
Throughout the whole weekend, the Conference included an Open Studio Art Build that highlighted the artwork behind last year’s Oakland and Los Angeles’ strikes. Artist organizer, David Solnit, and his wife Julie Searle, who is an artist presenter and educator in Berkeley, brought social justice to life in the form of art during those strikes. “People had the opportunity to ask questions and really get to see the different ways to have an Art Build that can be used on a large or small scales. This is a way to organize their members besides the usual actions, by involving families and the community. All images and parts of the presentation are available on CTA Go!” said Kampala Taiz-Rancifer, Executive Board Member of the Oakland Education Association. Conference participants were able to get a glimpse into the magic by designing their own work of art to support public education.
“Our fight is around different stories and art is part of those stories,” said Solnit, as he discussed the intersection between visual art and music.
“Teachers are the most vibrant social movement in the country today,” said Searle, as she explained the energy between being a teacher and organizer.
The Conference was kicked off by Veronica Carrizales, Policy and Campaign Director at California Calls, who is at the forefront of building the formidable coalition to win the Schools and Communities First initiative. Along with Board Member, Eva Ruiz, you can feel the energy spread throughout the room as members held up signs in support of the initiative. Participants were ready for a great weekend and made commitment to getting this done!
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Before participants left to their sessions, they attended a breakout depending on the issue area (Rural, Urban, COE, and ESP) they cover. Each breakout discussed how the initiative would impact their chapters, districts, and communities. Lenny Goldberg, Executive Director of the California Tax Reform Association, presented in the Rural Issues Breakout. He focused on the agricultural exemptions for California’s rural areas and reiterated that we are fixing Proposition 13, so corporations finally pay their fair share of taxes.
“Here in California, we saw the #RedForEd movement spread across our state. Did you know one out of seven of CTA members were on strike last year? We’re tired of the decades of disinvestment of public schools and community services,” said CTA Vice President David Goldberg, during Saturday’s General Session.
The Conference wrapped up with keynote speakers Teresa Knapp Gordon, President of the Little Rock Education Association and Kristy Mosby, Fifth Grade Teacher and Executive Board Member of the Little Rock Education Association. Despite state officials stripping union recognition and the teachers’ collective bargaining rights, educators walked out to stop a state plan that would create separate and unequal educational opportunities for Little Rock students. This dismantling of their district and the attack on collective bargaining would pave the way for billionaire-backed plans to privatize public education. Arkansas is the home state of the Wal-Mart founders, who have fueled the growth of corporate charter schools with hundreds of millions of dollars. Through their collective strength, the Little Rock Education Association led a strike last November for racial justice, educational equity, and collective bargaining.
The perseverance of these educators is amazing – they didn’t give up. “We had to preserve our recognition first and foremost,” said Gordon.
After this weekend, members left with that same sentiment – do not give up and keep fighting for the learning conditions our students and communities deserve.