Everyone in California is painfully aware that public education in California is being dismantled. In nearly every ranking at every level — from preschool to university — California is sinking compared to other states.
Yet, the very forces we should expect to be in the forefront of fighting for public education, including businesses that need educated workers and even the leaders of our educational segments, speak of the problems, but are strangely timid at key moments when public action is needed to stop the wrecking crew at work on our schools.
So, a group of education labor leaders have decided to make a public commitment to work together to fight for the future of our schools, colleges and universities, even if those nominally in charge do not.
Over the holidays, education labor groups teamed up for an “e-March” on Gov. Schwarzenegger, sending 5,000 messages telling him to include appropriate funding for public education from pre-school through Ph.D. in his 2010/11 budget proposal slated for release later this week.
On Jan. 5, leaders of five of the labor groups – who collectively represent more than 100,000 education workers from the pre-K-12 system, community colleges, California State University and University of California – held a news conference call to tell about their common cause.
Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association and professor of history at Cal State Los Angeles, said that in the governor’s presentation of his next budget plan, “We expect to hear about what a shame it is that he has to cut education again, accompanied by many crocodile tears about how he has no choice but to make these cuts.”
Taiz continued, “We say he has choices. In fact, it is a result of many years of bad choices that has put California on a path to creating a disaster from which it will not recover until long after the rest of the country is flourishing again.”
Carl Friedlander who teaches English, English-as-a-Second Language and linguistics at Los Angeles City College said, “Cuts in the community colleges are coming at a time when there is unprecedented demand…We have disrupted the plans of our students and their path to success.”
Friedlander is president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1521. He also serves as a vice president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
Edward Reed, a bus driver for Los Angeles public schools and President of SEIU Local 99 said, “On behalf of our youngest students, those in kindergarten, first and second grade….we must stop this budget wrecking ball.”
Reed continued, “We see a dim future for our youngest students unless we do something about these budget cuts. It is a travesty to take an education away.”
Pat Gantt, president of the 16,000-member California State University Employees Union (CSUEU) said, “I have worked in the CSU for 29 years and have seen budgets comes come and go. But never before has it been this bad. This period may be seen as the death of Master Plan for Higher Education unless something is done.”
Dr. Stanton Glantz, a Professor of Medicine at UC San Francisco said, “The University of California system is beyond the breaking point…The restructuring of public higher education that has taken place under the Schwarzenegger administration may take decades to recover from.”
Glantz is Vice President of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA), which is an umbrella organization for the Faculty Associations at each UC campus.
His organization has studied what it would take to “reset” the three higher education segments back to the funding, student admissions and fees levels of academic year 2000, when funding for education was not ideal, but was functional compared to today. He says, it would not take that much. Learn about it at http://keepcaliforniaspromise.org/?p=553
In addition to the education labor groups represented on the Jan. 5 call, others that participated in the e-March on the governor include Academic Professionals of California, United Auto Workers Graduate Students, AFSCME 3299 (UC Employees), American Association of University Professors, Alameda Central Labor Council, California Federation of Labor, and the Teachers Association of Long Beach.
Over the course of 2010, these and other education labor groups, alongside our students, alumni, parents and all who care as we do about the future of our state, can play a huge role in saving California’s system of public education.
Alice Sunshine is the Communication Director of California Faculty Association.
Learn more about what you can do by contacting the California Faculty Association, firstname.lastname@example.org