Claire Yan is a Policy Fellow in Education Studies at the
Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.[Yan index]
CTA Goes Radioactive
The unrelenting campaign to clinch unchecked spending…
Claire Yan] 3/14/05
California Teachers Association (CTA), the state's most powerful
union, is airing radio spots claiming that
Governor Schwarzenegger wants to “stiff our kids for $2
billion every year!” Does he?
recent ad starts with a first-grade teacher saying: “Last
year Governor Schwarzenegger borrowed two billion dollars from
the public schools. But now he says he’s not going to pay
it back.” Another voices chimes in. “Our schools
need more resources, not less.”
spot features a mock phone call to the governor’s
office. A man tells the operator that he’s concerned schools “just
aren’t getting the funding they need.” Yet another
ad features CTA president Barbara Kerr saying that the governor “will
cut school funding by billions.” In the Spanish version,
CTA vice president David Sanchez adds, “Starving our schools
starves the future for our kids. Overcrowded classrooms and underpaid
teachers hurt a child's chance to succeed.”
leave the impression that the governor is not only robbing
but also cutting life support to what would
otherwise be a stellar education system. Actually, the governor's
proposal would give schools $7,377 per student, 5.2 percent more
than in 2004-05. Even after adjusting for inflation, per-pupil
spending still lands an increase of 2.5 percent. The ads don’t
tell you that the governor proposed an overall $3-billion increase
for education. K-12 spending alone will get $1.6 billion more,
up three percent from current levels and hardly a plan to “starve” schools.
The two billion
dollars? Not so much “borrowed” money
as a delayed spending increase. The governor simply didn’t
increase spending as much as the unions would have liked. Instead,
Governor Schwarzenegger chose to use the $2.3 billion for other
needy areas, such as health care for kids.
of the state’s entire budget – almost
$50 billion – spent on education each year and the highest
average teacher salary in the nation, it’s time to pause
the spending spree and ask what we’re getting for such
an expensive purchase.
the largest portion of education spending, are distributed
to the detriment of the most needy students.
Senior teachers cluster around wealthy schools with good environments,
loading more resources at already well-off schools. The newest
and least qualified teachers are left with the toughest schools.
No amount of additional spending under the status quo will get
more qualified teachers to the kids who need them the most. Our
schools don’t just need more resources; they need serious
reform in how the resources are being used.
In an effort
to address this and other serious problems in the public schools,
Schwarzenegger has offered a host of
reforms – performance pay and ending tenure for teachers,
expansion of charter schools, and giving local districts more
control over funds. All have drawn heavy opposition from a union
striving to maintain the status quo of unexamined, uninterrupted
If the governor is serious about reform in the months ahead,
he will need to combat CTA misinformation. But CTA militancy
turns out to be bipartisan.
President Don Perata, an Oakland Democrat, gave his frank opinion
school spending via Proposition 98 mandates
was “an escalator without pause,” the CTA blanketed
his home district with fliers and yard signs. CRO