Union brings back Lobby Day to give CFT greater voice in Capitol

GATHERING FOR CFT Lobby Days, members traveled from Southern California, the Central Valley, and the Bay Area to ask their elected officials in Sacramento to do the right thing for public education.

The state treasurer kicked off the April 24 event. Standing before a crowd of about 100 educators, Bill Lockyer said anti-tax ideologues continuously tell the public that California has the highest taxes in the nation. But in fact California ranks 11th in sales tax rates and 10th in corporate taxes. Because of Proposition 13, property taxes rank 34th in the nation. Overall, it turns out, California is a middle-of-the-pack taxing state. The only tax that can be considered high is the one on top-bracket incomes, but this group has doubled its share of total California income.

He noted that when Ronald Reagan was governor, the state spent 6.02 percent of personal income on government-provided services. Today that number is 5.14 percent. That makes California 46th among states in services delivered per person. Lockyer concluded that more revenues are needed to fix California’s problems.

Throughout the day, K-12 teachers, classified staff, UC lecturers and librarians and community college faculty fanned out in the Capitol to speak with their elected officials.

Joanne Waddell, president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, led a team of four part-time instructors to their first meeting. All four — Kathy Holland, Renee Berg, Tim Gilmore and Salvador Sanchez  — have felt the negative impact of budget cuts brought about by the recession, and so have their students.

Their first stop was the office of Senator Alex Padilla. The senator was on the floor in session, but the delegation told their stories to an aide. As a result of the cuts, Berg said, there are just three class sections offered for a required child development course, so students can’t get in.

Gilmore, a counselor and instructor said students can’t get the classes they need to fulfill their educational plans, and aren’t able to see a counselor to make a new plan because the ratio of students to counselors is now more than 2,000 to 1. “They are becoming discouraged, and dropping out,” he told the staffer, who promised to tell Padilla what was said.

In one of the day’s highlights, termed-out Senator Joe Simitian described his efforts to pass legislation that created the new transitional kindergarten program for children whose fifth birthday falls after September, but before December. He described this work, supported by CFT, as “one of the three or four most important things” he accomplished during his 12 years in the Legislature.

But the big moment was a surprise drop-in visit by Gov. Jerry Brown. He bemoaned the fact that education has “lost so much money and is down 23 percent.” Referring to the 23rd Psalm, Brown said “the bad news is we’re still in the valley of darkness.” He thanked CFT for its work on the tax initiative and voiced the hope that our joint efforts would push it across the finish line in November.

— By Fred Glass, CFT Communications Director