Another black lawmaker turns on CA teacher unions

holly.mitchellCalifornia’s Democratic Party has long been able keep the peace between its richest faction — public employee unions — and its biggest faction — minority voters.

But more than with any Legislature this century, the current session has produced some very tart sparring between two African American lawmakers and the lobbyists for the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers who have close to operational control of Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

The latest came when state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, took exception to the dismissive treatment of one of her legislative priorities:

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said she is upset with the California Teachers Association’s vocal opposition to the Senate’s plan to cover much of its proposed higher spending on child care with money allocated under the Proposition 98 funding guarantee for schools.


Dean Vogel, the association’s president, said that the Senate proposal would take “more away from 5-year-olds to give to 3-year-olds.” In an interview Thursday, Mitchell said she has seen the same logic on union literature, which she called “weakest, most sophomoric argument I could ever hear.”


Mitchell suggested that the union’s opposition to the Senate’s plan stems from the fact it believes none of the extra spending would benefit its members. “What else can it be? I’m trying to unconnect the dots, but they haven’t shown me any other option,” she said.

That’s from a Sacramento Bee story this week. It builds on the run-ins that Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, had with the CTA and CFT over her tenure reform proposal and Weber’s beefs with police unions over whether officers should be able to look at body camera footage before writing their initial reports on incidents. Weber was the subject of a deeply flattering Dan Walters column on May 4 that depicted her as a welcome break from the Legislature’s union-dominated norms.

The Capitol’s big guns came out last week – and they were aimed at a 66-year-old grandmother who dared to buck two of California’s most powerful political interests – teacher and cop unions.

Shirley Weber, born in Arkansas and reared in a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles, acquired a doctorate degree and taught at college for four decades before becoming San Diego’s first African American Assembly member in 2012.

Weber is also concerned about whether the teachers unions are trying to hijack Local Control Funding Formula dollars for teachers’ raises, an issue on which she has the support of the full California Legislative Black Caucus.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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