Brown sends signal for teachers to openly proselytize for Prop. 30

Oct. 22, 2012

By Chris Reed

Gov. Jerry Brown’s weekend call for teachers to go all out for Prop. 30 and his agenda in the remaining two weeks before the election needs to be seen in the context of all the different ways school employees have illegally used taxpayer resources to promote ballot measures in California.

FPPC regulations built off unequivocal California Supreme Court decisions have made clear that public funds should not be used to urge the public to raise its own taxes or to take a stand on ballot or legislative matters.

But with the all-powerful California Teachers Association and its junior partner, the California Federation of Teachers, seeing the Nov. 6 vote as being key to their continued stranglehold on the state, they won’t need much encouragement from the governor to flout the law.

If Proposition 30 fails, some school districts will be so strapped for cash that parents, administrators and maybe even teachers finally will have an honest discussion of the nonsensical assumptions driving the K-12 business model.

In that model, most teachers get automatic raises just for time on the job, not for their perfomance.  They can secure additional raises through collective bargaining, which is easy when times are good because teacher unions often control school boards, or by taking additional graduate courses that have no positive effect on their teaching skills. And not only do teachers have very strong job protections, nearly all the tim, they are granted tenure after minimal serious scrutiny. Even liberal newspapers realize this is nuts.

These interrelated issues drive both the school budget and the teacher accountability crises. Automatic raises without regard to teacher performance hollow out school budgets, unless the economy is booming and revenue is rolling in. These pay practices explain veteran teachers’ adamant battles on behalf of the status quo.

Prop. 32

Which brings us to the second existential threat to teachers’ hegemony over California: Proposition 32. Banning automatic political contributions from teachers every paycheck instantly would change the balance of power in Sacramento as well as in the many local districts where board majorities are elected thanks to local teacher union spending.

So with or without Gov. Jerry Brown’s encouragement, here’s what we’ll see the next 15 days: Teachers giving students political fliers to take home to their parents; teachers holding rallies on school time and school property; administrators getting on intercoms to exhort adult employees to get out and vote; and a vast use of government emails, phone banks and more to push for Prop. 30 and against Prop. 32.

The lawbreakers have nothing to fear. No one in this Democratic-but-often-undemocratic state ever enforces the laws banning public employees from using taxpayer resources to encourage taxpayers to pay higher taxes or to encourage taxpayers to protect their union oppressors.

The comfort zone that teachers unions and their elected puppets feel in flouting the law just keeps expanding. In San Diego, when reporters began asking questions of school board President John Lee Evans over his use of school district email to push for passage of Props. 30 and 38, Evans not only wasn’t contrite — he had the infinite gall to suggest his First Amendment right to free speech was under assault.

But if the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers have a lot at stake with Props. 30 and 32, so do all Californians. Education reform that focuses on teacher performance and accountability is now so mainstream in U.S. politics that President Barack Obama embraces it with little backlash.

Yet in the Golden State, even as teachers kill bills to speed the firing of classroom predators, the argument that teachers are fighting for the best interests of students is somehow accepted by many parents and far too many in the media.

If only they would listen to Woody Allen. In his 1973 comedy, “Sleeper,” Allen constructed a post-apocalypse world that contained an in-joke for New York audiences: the nuclear war that obliterated the planet occurred after “a man by the name of Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.” That was a reference to the Manhattan teacher who turned the teachers union movement toward militancy beginning in 1959. Shanker shut down New York City schools in 1967 and 1968 with illegal strikes — one of which lasted 36 days.

And after he died, who gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom? President Bill Clinton.

It’s about time Californians figured out what Woody Allen did 40 years ago. Teachers unions are not remotely about protecting kids. They are about protecting their own power. The students? Many individual teachers are wonderful and dedicated. But to their unions, kids are props — cute, handy props. Props used to prop up Prop. 30 — and to pull down Prop. 32.

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