Earlier this week I predicted that CTA would sell out its members, children and the rest of the public sector in order to claim victory in its week-long State of Emergency protest over impending multi-billion dollar cuts to K-12 education. While it is still too early to tell exactly how things will play out, CTA’s new president, Dean Vogel, said this week that he likes the Governor’s revised budget proposal, a plan that includes slashing 5,500 state jobs, eliminating the Departments of Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Programs, and stripping Healthy Families health insurance from nearly 1 million kids. The plan also depends on the support of four more Republicans who will no doubt demand union concessions in exchange for their votes. And if they do approve the plan, it will force low income Californians to pay for the brunt of the bailout through regressive tax extensions.
Vogel likes the plan because it allows him to claim that the millions of dollars CTA spent on the State of Emergency actions (and on Brown’s campaign for governor) were justified and effective. It also makes the CTA look like a powerful champion of children, which is ironic considering the plan will be a disaster for low income kids. Vogel was quoted by John Fensterwald saying: “We believe that this is the best possible budget for us right now.”
The quote shows how bankrupt the CTA leadership really is. A decent budget would make the rich bail out the state and it would provide ample funding for education and social services, rather than maintaining education funding at third world levels. When Vogel says “Best for us” he essentially means best for the union leadership, who will continue to bring in their six-figure salaries and who will win points with their members for preserving their jobs and class sizes. Secondarily “Us” refers to teachers, who, despite this deal, will continue to suffer from the effects of the $20 billion that has been cut over the last three years, and a status quo that puts California near the bottom of the nation in per pupil spending and class sizes. But at least jobs will be saved and furloughs averted.
Vogel’s “Us” certainly does not include children and families, especially low income families, who will be hurt more than helped by this budget. And by “Best possible” he must be referring to politicians, who can say they voted for a pro-education budget without alienating their wealthy donors with tax increases on their businesses or incomes.
The budget actually may not even be all that great for teachers in the long term. By accepting this budget, CTA accepts the firing of thousands of other public sector workers and the slashing of $1.4 billion from higher education, concessions that could drive a serious wedge between K-12 teachers and their historical allies in higher education and other public sector professions. This could be devastating when the next round of attacks comes and teachers need support and solidarity from other workers.
According to Fensterwald, CTA wants the legislature to approve the tax extensions outright, without placing them on the ballot for voter approval, indicating the union’s mistrust of their own constituents and their fear that residents will refuse to tax themselves while the rich continue to get a free ride. This fear is not all that unreasonable, considering that a recent CFT poll showed a majority of Californians blame the rich for the current budget crisis.