Teachers union goes on offensive with new radio campaign

The California Teachers Association has launched a statewide radio advertising campaign airing on 70 stations that targets the governor and Legislature for failing to deal with the state’s budget crisis while “our public schools sink further into disrepair.”

The CTA, which represents 340,000 teachers, began the campaign Tuesday. The ads are airing on English, Spanish and Asian-language stations, the CTA said. The duration and cost of the ads were disclosed.

“California recently sank to 47th in per-pupil funding, according to Education Week’s Quality Counts, a ranking that doesn’t even take into account the most recent round of budget cuts. This is completely unacceptable,” said CTA President David A. Sanchez.

According to the CTA’s analysis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s red-ink budget proposal would cut $10.8 billion from public education over the next 18 months after 5,000 teachers have already been laid off, class sizes have increased, school libraries have closed, and other important programs have received cuts, the ad says.

“The governor’s proposal also eviscerates Proposition 98, the voter-approved minimum school funding law, and would create a permanent $7 billion to $9 billion cut to education year after year,” says Sanchez.

The governor’s Department of Finance said the administration is proposing a $7.71 billion cut in K-12 and community colleges for the 18-month period that ends in the middle of 2010.

The new campaign comes as Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are locked in closed-door negotiations about how to solve the state’s $41 billion budget shortfall. Cuts to education are expected to be part of any final budget solution.

Democratic leaders have tried to hold the line on deep cuts proposed by the governor in the area of social services and education.
“Californians want us to negotiate a solution to the budget and avoid the cash crisis. They don’t want school districts to go broke and layoff teachers,” said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, in her response to the governor’s State of the State address last week.

The teachers association is also looking to the future. The union has three ballot initiatives pending for the 2010 election. One of the measures would impose a new, 1-cent sales tax and use that money exclusively for schools.

The new sales tax could raise as much as $6 billion annually for schools.

The money would be used to create a new special fund in the state treasury known as the Public School Investment and Accountability Fund. K-12 schools would receive 89 percent of the new money. The remaining 11 percent would go to California community colleges.

In the text of the measure, currently pending at the Attorney General’s office, proponents state, “It is time to provide a stable, independent funding source for schools that cannot be cut by the Legislature and governor, cannot be withheld during a budget impasse, and cannot be diverted to other uses.”

The other CTA-backed ballot measures would lower the two-thirds vote requirement on state budgets. In 2004, CTA ran an initiative that would have lowered the budget vote threshold to 55 percent. That measure received just 36 percent of the vote.

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