Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Governor's budget : A CTA view

Unfortunately the press and T.V. such as California Connected will not print the teachers viewpoint. We are reduced to sound bites and chants at demonstrations.
Here is an article from the CTA journal for teachers, California Educator, explaining their viewpoint.

One of the first lessons teachers share with young children is the importance of keeping their word. For that reason, it came as a complete shock when the governor of California broke his promise to protect funding for public schools.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger borrowed $2 billion from the education budget, with the assurance that he would pay the money back. He vowed that schools would receive their fair share of any additional state revenue and that more harmful cuts would be avoided in future years. Education funding, he emphasized, would only be cut "over my dead body."

Now, even though state revenues are up, the governor is refusing to pay the money back. Even worse, he wants to destroy Proposition 98's minimum funding guarantees for education, which were put in place by a majority of the state's voters. His proposals would allow multiple rounds of midyear cuts across the board.

The net effect is estimated at $25,000 less for every classroom in the state.

This loss compounds the more than $9.8 billion in cuts California schools have suffered over the past four years, which already places the state at 44th in the nation in per-pupil funding; 50th in the number of guidance counselors, librarians and computers per student; 49th in teacher-student ratio; and 50th in library books per student.

Instead of helping teachers get adequate resources, the governor has labeled them special interests that the state must combat. Meanwhile, he has allied himself with big drug, oil and insurance companies that are raising millions of dollars to help him get voter approval for proposals designed to divert public attention from the real problems facing California schools.

In addition to gutting Prop. 98 guarantees, the governor is proposing other so-called reform measures:
• Instituting merit pay for teachers, which along with other employment decisions would be based on teacher performance as determined by student test scores on state-adopted standardized tests.
• Requiring teachers to teach for five years before gaining permanent status and thus the right to due process protections, and allowing permanent teachers to be dismissed if they receive two unsatisfactory evaluations in a row.
• Prohibiting pensions for teachers and other public employees hired after July 1, 2007, leaving them instead in unpredictable 401(k)-style investment plans.
• Silencing the voices of teachers and other public employees by restricting their unions' political activities and entangling them in unnecessary paperwork that will waste scant resources.
Saying he wants to take his so-called reform measures directly to the people rather than work within the legislative process, Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing a special election for November that would cost $70 million in taxpayer money.

CTA contends that big corporations are the real "special interests" that stand to benefit from his proposals. Voters are "overwhelmingly opposed" to holding a special election this year, especially when told the price tag, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Instead of trying to work with elected officials, the governor spends his time appearing at fundraisers and media events and posing with a giant spigot that spouts red ink. Such theatrics only mask the real issues facing California.

What follows is a look at the proposals the governor has made and what their implications are for schools.

The more California residents understand how the governor's proposals endanger public education, the angrier they become.

Even though public anger is reaching a fever pitch, the fight has only just begun and will likely continue until November and possibly longer. "We must remember that teachers are powerful voices in our communities - and we are in every community in the state," says CTA President Barbara E. Kerr. If teachers don't get involved in fighting to beat back the governor's attacks, "our classrooms and our profession will be suffering a year from now in ways that are painful to imagine."

Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
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