By Dina Martin and Dave Earl Carpenter
At a time when many other public officials have retired to write their memoirs or make it rich as lobbyists, Jerry Brown has decided to run for governor of California — even though his last term ended almost 30 years ago.
Either he’s a glutton for punishment or he genuinely has California’s interest at heart.
As the son of one of California’s great governors (Edmund “Pat” Brown), organizer for California farm workers, college trustee, secretary of state, governor, mayor of Oakland, and attorney general, Brown has always been a public official who has put the needs of this state first.
Just a few of the many advances that occurred during his two terms as governor are the creation of 1.9 million jobs, cleaner air quality in the state, the California Conservation Corps — and, oh yes, he actually balanced the state budget and managed to create a surplus doing it.
Educators and other working people can also thank Brown for establishing the Public Employment Relations Board, signing laws to give teachers and school employees the right to bargain collectively, extending collective bargaining rights to state employees, and signing laws to prohibit the use of professional strikebreakers in labor disputes. He’s always been on the side of California working families and their children.
Brown has spent his entire life in California, and served at least one of his terms as governor during the “golden age” of education, when schools and colleges were adequately funded and the entire system — kindergarten through university — was deemed “world class.” Unfortunately, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which provided tax relief for homeowners, also turned school financing on its head and ushered in what Brown called “an era of limits.” Still, in his time as governor, he had a hand in increasing the K-12 budget from $2.1 billion in 1974-75 to about $8.2 billion in 1982-83.
Those were different times. California is now in a world of hurt. And we need a leader who can again help us make some serious strides forward.
Jerry Brown 2.0
“Our state is in a real mess,” says Brown in a recent advertisement. “And I’m not going to give you any phony plans or snappy slogans that don’t go anywhere. We have to make some tough decisions.”
In early September, while on a campaign stop at the Orange County Labor Federation (OCLF) Labor Day picnic in Santa Ana, Brown opened up his speech in a lighthearted manner, referring to his opponent’s barrage of television and radio ads against him.
“Hello, I’m Jerry Brown,” he said, as though he hadn’t just spent the past 20 seconds receiving a roaring applause from the crowd before he even opened his mouth. “You’ve probably seen more of me in my opponent Meg Whitman’s commercials than anywhere else. What’s up with that?”
Noting that Whitman had already spent a record amount of money on her campaign by October — more than $120 million of her own funds (and $140 million at press time) — he said he was at a loss to see how those millions of dollars in ads were going to save California from the fix the state is in.
“This campaign isn’t just about ads,” he said. “It’s about you and your neighbors and your friends. It’s really about who cares most about California, who really understands California, and who can unite the very angry and very disparate elements that currently make up our state.”
Putting into perspective the dysfunction of California’s archaic budget system, Brown said, “Right now, in September, you have furloughs because you don’t have a budget. Why is that happening in September? A lot of the Legislature are on vacation. The governor is on a trip to China. I promise you this: If I’m elected, I’m not going to China — I’m going to Sacramento. And I’m going to Sacramento the first week, and I’m going to call the whole 120 legislators and say, ‘Okay, it’s time to do the budget, and we’re going to do it openly.’”
“What’s most important is to bring people together to emphasize the basics,” continued Brown, “that we don’t want anyone to fall so far down that they can’t even support a family or live a decent human life. So it’s about economics, but it’s also about morality, about serving the common good. About uniting Californians, not dividing them.”
And under Whitman’s tax plan, working families would pay an additional $600 more a year, while people like her would pay zero. In addition, her proposal to cut welfare programs in the state and invest that money in higher education is cynical and insensitive to the needs of people who live below the poverty line.
Whitman’s plan calls for cutting the state budget by $15 billion, which could equate to another $7 billion in cuts to already beleaguered schools. Brown has made a commitment to protect schools.
“Jerry Brown gets it,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “He knows that California’s future depends on a world-class, quality public school system. He understands that schools must have the resources they need to succeed. And he knows that Proposition 98 must be preserved to do that.”
Brown’s devotion to this state, its people and its future is evident — in stark contrast to Whitman’s approach, treating California like a business.
“At this stage of my life, I go back to the governorship not trying to be just a Democrat or fighting Republicans, but as a Californian first. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve voted in elections here all my life,” says Brown, alluding to Whitman’s poor voting record over the past 30 years.
“I care about this state,” continues Brown. “I’ve visited schools and police stations and prisons and picket lines — I’ve seen the whole gamut. I didn’t just wake up one day nine months ago and say, ‘Gee, it’d be fun to be governor.’ I’ve been governor, and it isn’t that much fun, I can tell you. It’s not like being president of a company. If you’re a CEO, you say, OK, lay off 10 percent. When you’re a governor, you have a legislature. This is a complicated and profoundly important job, but it takes the skills not of an autocrat, not of an isolated CEO that flies around in a bubble giving orders, but rather someone on the ground engaged with ordinary people.”
He shares our values
Brown’s disarming, down-to-earth personality belies a man who is a deep thinker, negotiator, visionary, and, yes, clever politician. Yet he has his critics as well.
Sanchez himself acknowledges that CTA’s relations with Brown have not always been cordial. “Jerry Brown has always been a public official who has looked for creative out-of-the-box solutions to meet the needs of the public — even when those ideas were not always embraced wholeheartedly by the public — or by our members. We haven’t always been on the same page with him.”
In fact, Brown ran afoul of both the Oakland Educators Association (OAE) and CTA during his years as mayor of Oakland. At that time, he focused on promoting more charter schools and getting voters’ approval to appoint three members to a larger school board. He also raised funds to begin two charter schools, which are still functioning.
The experiment left a bad taste in the mouths of many OEA members. But recognizing the world as it is, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones says Brown is the better choice for governor.
“Given his acknowledgment that every school should have the type of funding he’s been able to raise for his two charters, we’re hopeful he sees that all schools need adequate funding and that charters are not the answer,” she says.
Brown now acknowledges his efforts did not pan out perfectly. Still, it’s clear that he is a person concerned with the welfare of children and education — and he shares educators’ values. Brown knows that California’s future depends on a world-class, quality public school system, and his long record in public service demonstrates that. He believes that the best education reform takes place where there is collaboration among educators, parents and administrators to best meet the needs of students in neighborhood public schools.
Signed collective bargaining law
During his time in office, Brown signed the collective bargaining bill into law. At the OCLF picnic in Santa Ana, Brown talked about the importance of all stakeholders being involved.
“In labor unions you have collective bargaining. When you have collective bargaining, you have management, you have the union, and you fight — but you listen to the other side.”
“The Rodda Act, which allowed teachers to collectively bargain their contracts, also allowed us to have input in the governance of their schools,” says CTA President Sanchez. “Most of us teaching now take that for granted, but it certainly made us stakeholders in our schools.”
In what CTA Action called “a prolonged session of verbal fencing, punctuated by sharp humor and sharper questions,” at a May 1977 State Council of Education appearance, Brown himself termed the Rodda Act an important gain.
“I don’t know what you think of it,” Brown told Council at the time, “but from all I hear from the school boards, you must be doing something right.”
In that same appearance, Brown also acknowledged that teachers were being given “more and more of the work that was done in homes and elsewhere. Either we have to get everybody to do more for themselves or get everybody to accept they’ve got to pay more money in the public sector.”
Importance of higher education
His beginnings as a trustee for the Los Angeles Community College Board also gave him an understanding of the value of higher education in California that has followed him throughout his career. A product of the state’s university system (he’s a UC Berkeley grad), Brown understands the importance of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education and how it fits into the economic prosperity of the state.
As Brown said in remarks to CTA’s State Council of Education in June, “When we invest in our people and in our schools, when we pull together, then we know that we don’t just defend the land of our fathers — we defend and protect the land of our children.”
Higher education faculty also benefited from collective bargaining.
“The establishment of bargaining rights under Brown was a huge step forward for educators. We would be in a very different place right now without those rights,” says Community College Association President Ron Norton Reel, a Republican. “Brown’s opponent, billionaire businesswoman Meg Whitman, is the polar opposite. She wants to solve the state budget crisis by eliminating 40,000 jobs and further cutting the state budget. She wants to eliminate our secure retirement and put all public employees into risky 401(k) plans.”
“This move would be devastating to community college faculty,” CCA Vice President Lynette Nyaggah adds. “Over the years, as I have talked to my colleagues, one of the most reassuring aspects of our job is the prospect of a dependable retirement plan during our retirement years.”
Overhaul of state testing system
In his plan, Brown has vowed to revamp California’s testing system so that we are not spending $100 million annually on standardized tests that don’t measure learning and force teachers to teach to the test. He also opposes second-grade testing. Instead of focusing on standardized test scores, Brown wants a curriculum that gives our students a well-rounded education including history, science and the arts, as well as English and math.
Whitman, on the other hand, wants to use test scores to grade schools A through F, and wants to evaluate and pay teachers based on test scores.
Debate shows true colors
During a recent governor’s debate in Fresno, Whitman proved to be both bit cynical and insensitive to issues of immigration. The debate, televised to a Spanish-speaking audience by Univision, occurred in the days after it was revealed Whitman had employed an undocumented worker for nine years, though she has publicly called for a crackdown of such practices by employers.
In a question-and-answer session, a young woman who said she was a senior at the university and an illegal immigrant asked the candidates about the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors), designed to help those individuals who meet certain requirements have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship, which they otherwise would not have without this legislation. The young woman said that even though she was at the top of her class when she graduated from high school, she wouldn’t be able to work legally after graduation without a path to citizenship. The California DREAM Act was recently vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Whitman also opposes the DREAM Act, while Brown says he would sign the law if it came to him as governor.
“She wants to kick you out of the school because you are not documented, and that is wrong, morally and humanly,” Brown told the student.
Onstage in Fresno, Brown paused momentarily, listening to a correctional nurse shout about how difficult it was to accept furlough days.
“OK, so, furlough days — well, that’s one technique of the current governor, because they ran out of money, and they ran out of money because they didn’t learn to live within their means.”
The nurse responded with a cynical statement, but Brown remained on track.
“We’re going to have to make some very tough choices,” he said. “But we want everyone at the table and everything on the table. We’ll listen to the correctional nurses and to the teachers, the taxpayers and small businesses. These are very difficult times, and you don’t get anywhere by trying to destroy your opponent. You have to incorporate multiple perspectives and lead everyone to a common path to make California great.”
A down-to-earth politician who listens to the voice in the crowd and knows that California’s greatness can be restored if we all come together to figure it out. That’s why CTA believes that Jerry Brown should be the next governor of California.
Why I’m voting for Jerry
I am voting for Jerry Brown for governor because he is a learned, thoughtful, and experienced candidate. The State of California is more than just a business to be run for the benefit of a few stakeholders at the top of the corporate ladder. It is a complex interplay of parks, roads, schools, farms, factories, hospitals, ports, and so much more. There is only one candidate in the race who has done the job before and understands how to balance every Californian’s needs at this critical juncture in our state’s history. That candidate is Jerry Brown.
Susan Green, CFA
Educators and other working people can thank Brown for:
- Creating 1.9 million jobs during his time as governor.
- Establishing the Public Employment Relations Board.
- Signing laws to give teachers and school employees the right to bargain collectively.
- Extending collective bargaining rights to state employees.
- Signed laws to prohibit the use of professional strikebreakers in labor disputes.
You can thank Jerry Brown for:
- Catalytic converters
- Diamond lanes
- Cleaner air quality in the state
- California Agricultural Labor Relations Act
- Stronger equal pay laws
- Repeal of the “depletion allowance” — a tax break for the state’s oil industry
- California Conservation Corps (CCC)
- California Coastal Protection Act
- The country’s first building and appliance energy efficiency standard
- Solar and alternative energy leadership
Why I’m voting for Jerry
I am a California student who strives to better my education and be the most effective educator I can be. I will be voting for Jerry Brown because he stands up and supports public education. His education plan is informative and inspiring and he understands the challenges educators face on a daily basis. He believes and shows that everyone deserves to have a valuable education.
Christopher Pancoast , Student CTA
Why I’m voting for Jerry
I think we need someone with political experience in Sacramento at this time. Jerry Brown brings with him a lifelong dedication to public service. He is more in touch with the common person than most politicians are, and if anyone can get the Legislature to work together, he can. He has also promised to protect education, which should be at the top of every politician’s list.
Torrance Teachers Association
California schools prospered during Brown’s time as governor. They can again.
- K-12 budget increased from $2.1 billion in 1974-75 to about $8.2 billion in 1982-83.
- State funding for higher education, including community colleges, more than doubled.
- The state budget for the University of California increased from $474 million in 1974-75 to $1.15 billion in 1982-83.
- The California State University budget increased from $454 million in 1974-75 to nearly $987 million in 1982-83.