|Washington Lobbyist (Image from Flickr, by DonkeyHotey)|
The Times, like other media and pundits, has tried to equate union lobbying with that of corporations, suggesting, for example, that campaign contributions won California teachers an important victory with a bill restricting the issuance of pink slips. Yet the California Teachers Association (CTA), which spent $6.5 million, has so far failed to win (or even ask for) anything that would increases revenues sufficiently so that schools could afford to retain teachers and hire enough to lower class sizes, (e.g., end high stakes exams and Common Core Standards, increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations, end the 3 Strikes law, increase taxes on oil and marijuana).
California has slashed over $20 billion from K-12 education over the past three years. Under such conditions, it is inevitable that jobs will be lost, services and programs cut, class sizes increased, and pay and benefits reduced. CTA is supporting the Governor’s tax increase initiative on the November ballot, but this will be a bandage at best. It will not repay the $20 billion that has already been slashed, nor increase revenue to a level necessary to bring California up from the bottom five states in per pupil spending. Furthermore, it will provide almost nothing to higher education or services to the poor and disabled, while unfairly taxing the poor through a regressive sales tax increase.
While the CTA’s spending was paltry compared with what the corporations spent, it was monstrous compared with what it spent on organizing and mobilizing its members to take job actions, such as strikes, that would more effectively achieve its goals. Instead, it spent its members’ dues retaining a team of seven lobbyists and wining and dining politicians and their staffs.
It is true, as the Times points out, that they also paid the travel expenses for its members to visit Sacramento during the State of Emergency (SOE) protests last year. However, they actively discouraged members from engaging in civil disobedience, occupations or other confrontational tactics, instead encouraging them to meet with legislators and discuss their scripted talking points.
Predictably, the SOE protests and “citizen” lobbying yielded nothing meaningful for teachers or their students.