In 2011, the CFT worked with community partners to lead the
charge for a Millionaires Tax that eventually turned into Prop 30
and was then extended by Prop 55. Those funds helped stop the
bleeding in K-14 education following the recession and drastic
funding cuts of the mid-2000s.
Now, however, there are pressures throughout our school districts
and community colleges that are preventing CFT members from
getting the pay, benefits, program funding, and staffing levels
our schools, colleges, and communities desperately need.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS,
recently rattled the cages of the for-profit prison industry by
divesting nearly $10 million of stock in the country’s two
biggest private jailers.
The August sell-off came on the heels of the California State
Teachers Retirement System, CalSTRS, dropping its $12 million
investment in GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as the
Corrections Corporation of America).
On Thursday, October 3, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB
historic charter school reform bill that is essential to
ensuring charter schools are accountable to local communities and
all California students. The new law follows months of
incredible organizing and weeks of intense negotiations, during
which CFT leaders, members, and staff have stood with fellow
educators, school workers, parents, and students to push for
A recent video that went viral on social media showed a bus
driver being attacked by angry parents in St. Louis. Bernard
Benson knows how parents can lose their tempers. He has been
driving school buses in the San Joaquin Valley for six years.
“A detour makes a driver late and parents get mad because of the
delay. It happens all the time. It goes with the territory,” he
said, adding, “Most of the time we’re looked at like the good
guys because we get kids to and from school.”
This past year has been at times demoralizing, frightening,
offensive and challenging. Yet through it all shines a ray of
hope that something may be changing. In spite of all the
administration’s bombastic rhetoric, or because of it, there
seems to be broad opposition to Trump’s policies and growing
clamor for something different.
In October I accompanied AFT President Randi Weingarten and
several fellow AFT union leaders on a fact-finding trip to Sweden
and Norway. The purpose of the trip was to examine firsthand the
approaches taken by the countries to inform our own approach to
At first glance, Sweden and Norway seem nearly identical. Both
countries have low levels of income inequality. They fund their
schools well and it shows. They both have high rates of union
membership and participation. And they both have a relatively
high rate of electoral participation.
Friday, Cesar Chavez Day, the first day of the CFT Convention,
Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation promised the
delegates that he will make sure other unions — the plumbers,
carpenters, and building trades — back up the CFT in their fight
against charter schools and privatization. Then he got them fired
up for the march in support of immigrant rights.
The CFT completed its 75th Convention and Jeff Freitas and I were
honored to be re-elected by delegates to lead this great,
progressive union. A new Executive Council was also elected, a
diverse group of local leaders that will help guide this
organization in the difficult period ahead.
As the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee of the
U.S. Senate voted to advance the nomination of Betsy DeVos as
Secretary of Education to the full Senate along party lines this
morning, hundreds of Bay Area parents, teachers, and students
came together at a noon rally and press conference in front of
the Federal Building in Oakland to denounce her nomination.
The CFT is boycotting office supply retailer Staples at the
request of the American Postal Workers Union, which is opposing a
no-bid sweetheart deal between the U.S. Postal Service and the
giant office supply retailer to operate postal counters in
Staples stores. An estimated one-third of Staples’ revenues come
from the sale of school supplies, many purchased by teachers and
other school employees for classrooms.
As part of AFT’s ongoing effort to build
alliances with educators and trade unionists around
the world, President Randi Weingarten led an AFT delegation in
May to meet education union leaders and other unionists in
Brazil, Argentina and Chile. I joined them as we looked at their
multi-year effort to defend and expand public education, and to
develop a response to attacks.
Do you remember the Excellence in Education movement, along with
the Time on Task idea, and the Assertive Discipline model? These
efforts to bring about educational reform followed the
publication of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education
Reform in 1983 by the National Commission on Excellence in
Education. This report popularized many of the privatization
notions regarding public education. I refer to this as Phase 1 of
the movement to privatize public education.