By CTA President David A. Sanchez
We have some good news to celebrate: CTA-supported candidates and school measures scored big wins in the June primary election. Thanks to our hard work, California voters soundly rejected the top-down reform agenda of state Senator Gloria Romero as they voted for CTA-supported Tom Torlakson and former superintendent Larry Aceves to advance to the November runoff for state superintendent of public instruction. It was a vote against the state budget cuts, the one-size-fits-all mandates of Sacramento and Washington, and the blame game against teachers. It shows what we can accomplish when we work together.
But we still have much to do. As we bring this school year to an end, dealing with yet another year of drastic cuts to public education, it’s clear that we have our work cut out for us in the coming months. We’re facing and fighting the largest budget cuts in California since the Great Depression. Tens of thousands of our members have lost their jobs — forcing class sizes to increase and many educational programs to be eliminated. More than $17 billion has been cut from California public schools and colleges in the last two years, equaling a cut of nearly $3,000 per student. We’re seeing scathing attacks on our most experienced teachers, swelling class sizes, and an administration that believes federal education funding and support should be based on a competition that labels a few students and schools winners and the rest losers. We know that it’s not that simple.
So many of our lawmakers today are looking for easy answers — a quick fix for the problems facing our state and our schools — and have neglected to listen to teachers, the professionals working every day on education’s front line. We know that there are no easy answers or quick cure-alls. We know that what’s needed now from lawmakers are solutions that are proven to work. But proven solutions, like smaller class sizes and quality professional development, take money to implement, and if the governor sells the Legislature on another cuts-only budget, things are only going to get worse. Fortunately, Assembly Speaker John Perez has proposed a budget solution that does not suspend or manipulate the Proposition 98 constitutional funding
guarantee for public education and does not impose more cuts on schools. We will be working with the Assembly and the Senate, encouraging them to approve this version of the state budget.
The June primary race was about more than who will become the next state superintendent. It was a California referendum on the Obama-Duncan reform agenda. California voters spoke loud and clear, showing their support for education reform that
focuses on proven reforms and on parents, teachers and administrators working together to best meet the needs of students in their neighborhood schools.
As we approach this November’s general election, we’ll need your involvement with the governor’s race between Jerry Brown, who has made a firm commitment to support teachers and public schools, and
billionaire businesswoman Meg Whitman, who has spent $71 million of her own money on the primary, essentially trying to buy the office.
We’ll need to work hard over the coming months to keep our members informed and engaged through the election. It’s not too soon to begin talking with your friends and families about why supporting public education at the polls is so important to the future of our state, or why California’s tax structure needs fundamental changes if our public schools are going to have the chance to thrive again.
While most people will agree that change in Sacramento is necessary, getting them to agree on what that change should be and how to achieve it will take more than a quick, easy conversation. But it’s a conversation we must lead for the sake of our students and schools. That’s why, in addition to recommending a full slate of pro-public education candidates for the November election, CTA has collected signatures to qualify an initiative to repeal unfair corporate tax breaks. This initiative is just a start to changing state tax structures to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share. Big corporations are getting tax breaks at the same time state budget cuts are breaking our schools, and that’s just not right. So CTA will lead the charge to rescind these tax breaks, which were handed out to the state’s largest corporations.
In addition to working on the state budget and preparing for the November election, we will be monitoring a lot of other issues, like ESEA reauthorization, throughout the summer. We want to make sure your voice is heard on the important issues that affect your classroom and schools. To make it easier for you to advocate for public education and to send a clear message to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, we are introducing a new real-time lobbying effort for members who sign up. You can sign up by texting CTASUMMER to 69866 or e-mailing SummerAdvocate@cta.org; we’ll keep you informed throughout the summer. Working together, we can elect officials who are pro-education and pro-student, and help our schools get the funding they so desperately need.