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Educators respond to Governor and Launch “Fight for California’s Future” Posted on 14 January 20

16 January 2010

from California Progress Report
By Marty Hittelman
California Federation of Teachers

Governor Schwarzenegger is leaving a clear legacy – a legacy of saying one thing and doing the opposite. On Wednesday, he claims he is not going to cut education; but on Friday he proposes to reduce the Proposition 98 guarantee by $892 million in 2009-10 and $1.5 billion in 2010-11. The governor proposes to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline (which helps fund Proposition 98) and increase the fuel excise tax (which does not help fund Proposition 98). How does that protect education?

The $892 million reduction in 2009-10 is more than the maximum that California could receive over four years in the Race to the Top funding, which the governor claims is so important to California. Of course, the more than $17 billion in cuts to education over the last two years dwarfs both of these amounts.  Schwarzenegger is using the budget crisis to promote some of his favorite issues, none of which would benefit the majority of people in California.

The money is clearly not the issue for the governor in the “Race to the Top” legislation.

First, he cuts $17 billion over the past two years from education, and suggests another $1.5 billion in state reductions in this budget proposal.  Then he turns around and says we need the $700 million in federal money.  Clearly, the money isn’t the priority.  He supports Race to the Top as a way to force his values on California’s educational systems.

•  The “reforms” that the governor wants will do little to improve education and in some cases will do actual harm.

Charter provisions:  Charters are no panacea; studies show as much success and lack of progress in charter schools as in our ongoing school structures.

Pay for performance:  Has never been shown to be effective at increasing learning. It has been shown to upset cooperative efforts within schools.

Open enrollment:  Only parents who can afford to send their children to non-neighborhood schools will be able to benefit from SB 4.

Parent trigger:  No educational justification is required, just 50% of parent signatures on a petition, which can then create chaos, divert attention from the work of education, wreck the lives of students, teachers, principals, and community as schools are closed or turned over to new operators with no track record of success. The 50% threshold is only likely to be met when someone with money comes in to organize the parents in order to form a school under their control.

Data on student performance:  Data can be helpful if used to inform teachers of what is working and what is not. But it is an expensive and difficult proposition to implement.

•  This legislation further underfunds education and implements mostly unfunded mandates. Many school districts have already opted out of California’s Race to the Top proposal, as it will likely result in unfunded requirements with uncertain benefits.  California was already 47th in the nation in per pupil spending before last year’s cuts.  Few districts can afford to participate, and many (e.g., Ventura, Santa Rosa) are already opting out.

• The CFT will not sign the state proposal to the federal government to support California’s plan for Race to the Top as there is no official plan to support. Our locals are still free to sign on to their districts’ Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) if they so decide.

The governor is proposing a cynical constitutional amendment to boost the percentage of public higher education spending over prison spending. While we agree with the intent to increase higher education funding and reduce prison funding, the governor has already demonstrated his lack of commitment to public higher education.  Last year Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature reduced CSU funding by $500 million, and UC by $800 million.  Now he is using concern over the future of UC and the CSU to promote his long-standing goal to privatize prisons.

The proposal he has come up with does nothing to insure prison population reduction, or to limit tuition fee hikes at UC, CSU or community colleges.  Working families are being priced out of public higher education.  UC student fees are now over $10,000 per year.  CSU student fees are nearing $5,000.

There’s a reason police and firefighting are public functions, and the same goes for public education and public health. We are not in favor of taking incarceration out of the hands of public accountability and allowing private interests to profit from the misery of the incarcerated. This will not lead to better rehabilitation of prisoners, or necessarily save the state money.

Currently and historically, there are great problems with privatizing prisons:  for example, just last week in Kentucky the state’s governor ordered 400 women removed from a Corrections Corporation of America-run prison after continuing allegations of sexual misconduct and assaults by male guards.  They will be returned to a state run prison.

Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country, contributed $100,000 to Schwarzenegger’s failed “Budget Reform Act” ballot measure last April.  The governor’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to privatize prisons must be a coincidence.

Rather than this, the people of California should support AB 656, Assemblyman Torrico’s proposal for an oil severance tax to help fund UC, CSU and the community colleges.

The California Federation of Teachers has an alternative to these bad ideas.  We are launching a campaign, the Fight for California’s Future, to protest the cuts proposed for education and other vital public services, to restore California state government so that it works for all the people, and to secure the state’s future through fair, progressive tax policies.  We will be joining with other education groups on March 4 for a day of action around the state, and the following day will kick off a march from Bakersfield to Sacramento with a coalition of organizations to highlight these issues and alternatives to provide for a positive California future.

Over the past fifteen years the top one percent of California income earners has increased its share of income from 13% to 25%, but its tax responsibility has gone down from 11.3% to 9.3%, leaving the state without 5-6 billion dollars/year.  Last year, the governor’s budget lost the state billions of dollars of corporate taxes in the long term in exchange for a modest short-term boost; we will work to repeal this corporate loophole.  We will also advocate for a split roll tax, and other progressive taxes that ask the most affluent to do their fair part to help the state.

We don’t think the problem is that the majority of Californians don’t like taxes.  Most polling says otherwise.  The problem is that to raise taxes takes 2/3 of the Legislature instead of a simple majority, and just over one third of the legislature has taken a “no new tax” pledge circulated by Grover Norquist, a man whose stated goal is to destroy government services that benefit working families.

The Campaign for California’s Future will educate the public about how this works over the next months and years, and ultimately we will help turn California around.

Marty Hittelman is President of the California Federation of Teachers.
The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and
private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher


Banner Drop at University of New Orleans

15 January 2010

Students are being forced to pay more for less. Government bureacrats have slashed the higher education budget for the second straight year. And the cuts are only getting worse. Our tuition has ratcheted up 10% and the Post-Secondary Education Review Commission is discussing as much as a 30% increase next Fall. They have already cut classes and majors, jammed every class to bursting, layed off whole crews of UNO workers, and restricted access to labs and buildings. Dirt is piling up in the buildings and students are watching the classes they need to graduate evaporate.

The economic crisis has come home. This is a crisis created by policymakers in bed with Wall Street, not by the students, faculty, or workers at UNO, and WE WON’T PAY FOR THEIR CRISIS.

De-funding higher education is a sure way to keep Louisiana at the bottom of the heap and destroy any hope of a better future for our state.

This situation is untenable.

We urge faculty to discuss the budget cuts in their classes, the staff to organize strikes as the layoffs continue, and for students to take action against tuition increases and class cuts. Faculty, workers, students: stand together and halt the looting of public higher education in Louisiana!

20 of the 25 highest paid government employees in Louisiana are Louisiana university administrators. LSU System President John Lombardi makes $600,000 a year. What Lombardi hopes for is our silence as he dismantles the university with one hand and stuffs his pocket with the other. That is business as usual, for now, but it rests on our complacency in allowing it to function in this time of crisis.

We are the university, we can shut it down.
-A few fed up UNO students

Report from Occupied Miwok Territory

15 January 2010

We will not budge and are willing to die… Everything has been taken. This is the last.”
-Silvia Burley, CVMT chairperson

“Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
-Mos Def

Anarchists and indigenous activists from the Bay, Central Valley, Santa Cruz and Canada have gathered at a foreclosed house in Stockton which is the only property belonging to the California Valley Miwok Tribe. It’s an hour and a half into the second announced eviction date (the first was in June and sheriffs were held off by a lawsuit). The contest over the house is part of a struggle over the legal identity of the CVMT. It is also one of the first eviction resistances attempted in the U.S. since the housing market crashed, and it is happening in Stockton, CA which has been the #1 city in the U.S. for foreclosures the past 3 years running. (The Central Valley in general has been exceptionally hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.)

The CVMT has existed as a federally recognized tribe (i.e., technically a part of the federal government) since 1915. The tribe existed as a mere formality, without organization or land, until the late 1970s when Silvia Burley and a number of other young activists inspired by the burgeoning indigenous movement of those years began the process of building an actual tribal government organization which can obtain and disburse federal funds and other services. It has been a long slow process but the CVMT has managed to obtain food, housing, environmental protection and other aid for some of its members.

In the past few years, the tribe’s funding stream has been frozen. A development corporation which owns a chain of casinos in Nevada and major housing development concerns in California has hired a front group of thugs and assorted scumbags to intimidate the existing tribal members and take control of the tribal government, with the goal of building a casino. Casinos represent the most crude monetization of the land rights and sovereignty that tribal governments represent. It’s also worth noting that four major “gaming tribes” in southern California hog most of the federal funds available to the state’s 108 recognized tribes (many of which are landless).

There is a very long story here about the BIA, the developer, and the various connections between businesses and government agencies involved. (see the CVMT website) The point that really resonates here though, is that a group of people are drawing a line and standing their ground against the forces of capital. Our homes, our futures, and our lives will not be taken away without resistance. We are not few enough to be easily pried apart. Today, anarchists resisting foreclosure will stand with indigenous people resisting disconnection from their territory. And tomorrow? The occupants of this house are prepared to keep out the sheriffs, the developers’ thugs and anyone else that tries to fuck with us. If the house can be held until Feb. 9 there is a court date which may release funds to the tribe and save the house, so it would be concretely really helpful for more people to join the resisters here. It would also be awesome if more people started occupying foreclosed houses, resisting eviction, and occupying fucking everything.

We are starting again… CALI WHAT!