Arun Ramanathan of The Education Trust West makes an absolutely critical point about what would be done with the billions of dollars going to schools if ballot measures are approved in November raising taxes in the name of “helping the kids”:
The proponents of upcoming ballot initiatives argue that taxing California’s Scrooges will restore our education system, thereby restoring our best path to income equality. But anyone who’s spent any time at school board meetings knows that the interests of children – especially the children in poverty and their families – are down near the bottom of the list, after the interests of the adult groups who got the board members elected. Give districts more money and sure, they might restore school days, summer school, and intervention programs for our state’s millions of Tiny Tims – but only after they’ve finished satisfying pent-up salary demands, backfilling pension and benefit obligations, increasing their reserves, paying off early retirement incentives, and recalling employees by seniority.
We’re at a peculiar time, journalistically speaking. It’s been years since I met a veteran journalist who didn’t assume that a driving factor in education policy in California is accommodating the interests of the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers — in other words, groups who think the interests of adults matter more than kids. Yet you still see stories that accept as a premise that teachers are lobbying Sacramento to fight for kids. Why the gap between what the veteran journos know to be true and what they write? Who knows?
On the East Coast, the realization that teachers unions aren’t an altruistic force fighting for the children, who are the future, settled in long ago. To recycle a past post …
In California, you have such a persistent clinging to the idea that teachers’ and students’ interests are identical that an AP reporter covering a Sacramento budget rally a few years ago uncritically accepted and published the assertion that teachers had turned out to fight for the kids. Why can’t we be like the East Coast? There, you see Woody Allen joking in a movie that a famous teachers union official named Albert Shanker was so obstreporous that he started a nuclear war.
When did Woody make this joke? In “Sleeper,” which came out in 1973.
1973!!!! When will West Coast journos reach this level of cynicism/realism about teachers unions?
At least thoughtful, honest liberals like Ramanathan have figured out what’s going on:
If our leaders want taxpayers to pony up, they should commit to major reforms as part of the package. They ought to have an answer to those people who have no problem paying more taxes so our children can have a better life but sure as hell don’t want to pay more taxes so a bunch of well-placed adults can have a better life than they have. They ought to be able to tell us with complete transparency where our money is going and commit to making sure that 100 percent of it flows directly to schools based on the needs of their students. They should promise to stand up to their special-interest backers and pass the reforms necessary to fix our education system and keep our best teachers in the classroom, regardless of seniority – so we know our money isn’t wasted.
Will our leaders do this? Of course not. But will the media put into context why our leaders fail to do what’s needed? After decades of ignoring obvious truths about the CTA and Sacramento, why would they start now?