With the underperforming public school system in California under intense scrutiny, teachers have been criticized of late for their collective job performance. A frustrated public has unfairly blamed teachers for the failure of children to learn who have been brought up by Game Boy, Nintendo, Twitter, and Facebook, more than their from the tutelage of their nuclear families.
Historically, no one can deny the elite status of school teachers in the eyes of society. These are generally well respected individuals who educate children and help them become good citizens and productive adults.
Taking advantage of this lofty status has assisted the California Teachers Association (CTA), to evolve into one of the most powerful labor unions in the Golden State. Along with its number #1 job of looking into the economic interests of its members, this powerful political player has increasingly taken arch progressive activist stands on social issues ranging from gay marriage to abortion. In addition, teacher unions have been aggressively supporting liberal democratic office seekers.
Straying from its primary mission of education has put the CTA in awkward situations.
Just imagine being Civics & American Government instructor at Miramonte High School in Orinda on June 4th, following the previous day’s election which saw CTA supported Tim Sbranti secure a spot to oppose Republican Catharine Baker in November. With your union having dished out $767,000 to your candidate of choice, how could you look your students squarely in the eyes and say, “This is how our democracy should work?”
We want to think that the CTA has more integrity than an ethically challenged real estate organization or assorted shark tank lobbyists who lurk in the hallways of Sacramento. The fact is these Political Action Committees (PAC), including those affiliated with labor unions of all types, contributed approximately $3.9 million dollars to influence the outcome of the 16th Assembly Primary.
This came to an astounding $45.90 per vote cast. It did not matter that an arguably “gray market” politician such as Steve Glazer was involved in the campaign.
The last time I checked the “Everybody does it” excuse should not be construed to be a new chapter in the sequel to John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Virtually none of the PAC funds came from local sources which lends credence to the notion that this money was polluting the political process.
As the nearby graph indicates, the CTA, along with other Union organizations in their support for Tim Sbranti, has attempted to preempt the ability of voters to make well informed decisions. Just the Teachers Union by themselves outspent Catharine Baker’s total expenditures by a margin of over 6 to 1. How can the CTA, which lobbies under the guise, “We are here for the children,” engage in partisan political maneuvers that would make Boss Tweed cringe?
What is so important about one race where it is worth subverting the electorate so your candidate triumphs?
Truth is Steve Glazer, who was the targeted by teachers union PACs in the primary, is hardly an anti-education zealot. There has never been a tax increase that he has not supported. If so, why did the teacher unions throw money into this race against him like a drunken sailor?
The answer is simple. Once Glazer was defeated, campaign donations from teacher unions could be directed at Sbranti’s opponent in November, Catharine Baker.
While being outspent 40 to 1 by her three Democratic rivals, Baker’s views on public education in California, as perceived by CTA, come close to being classified as toxic, anti-child “hate speech.”
Baker, who was a member of the site committee at her childrens’ school in Dublin, and did some work for the local school board, is considered a deadly threat because she:
- Is a major advocate for pension reform for all public employees including teachers.
- Believes the current tenure system for teachers encourages complacency and protects bad teachers at the expense of higher performing ones
- Likes Charter Schools (that the union despises) as one of many solutions to improving education in California.
- Favors further decentralization of school administration to local communities which the CTA marginally supports but has great reservations about.
In effect the CTA is pitting one of their own Tim Sbranti (a teacher), against an opponent whose views more resemble a soccer mom than PUBLIC ENEMY #1.
Is this how all members of the teacher unions really think?
Campaign reform in the form of Proposition 32 was rejected by voters in 2012. This initiative would have provided for individuals to determine if the organizations they belonged to could spend money for political causes. As a result only boards of unions and corporations currently make these decisions.
It is ironic that labor unions used the threat of the Koch brothers contributing to conservative issues as their arguement to defeat Proposition 32. As it turns out teacher unions have done exactly the same thing in spades as recent State of California mandated campaign disclosure reports indicate. The recent 16th District Assembly race is a poster child for how special interests of all types bought and paid for votes like a cheap suit.
This has allowed teacher unions to give 99% of their support for so-called Progressives candidates at the exclusion of all Republicans. It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that every single teacher is a stalwart of the Democratic Party? Of course not. I just can’t imagine that all teachers want to chart this leftist course or for that matter even want to become involved with partisan politics of any kind.
I have been told off the record that in many cases conservative teachers are afraid to say anything that contradicts progressive policies when speaking to bosses and stewards of their local teacher unions. Opposing the CTA’s political positions might lead to repercussions including termination or being black balled by their colleagues. If such behaviors are not examples of bullying, what is?
Perhaps it is a good time from the CTA to take a step back and a take long look in the mirror in order to reflect on what it have become. At the same time it might consider returning to the traditional role of playing an important part in children’s lives and “yes” make a pretty good living doing this.
The role 600 pound gorilla played the teacher unions in the 16th District Assembly race should not be what the teaching profession is all about.