Here is an updated version of the OEA PowerPoint history with pictures from the one-day strike 4/29/2010 and the general membership meeting 5/3/2010. Click here to view or download the presentation.
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My recent posts have focused on the California Teachers Association’s failure to fight the slash-and-burn cuts to public schools and other services and on potential allies in a real fight back. At the Socialism 2009 conference in San Francisco, July 2-5, authors Mike Davis and David Bacon critiqued the overall paralysis of labor “leaders” tied to the Democrats and the politics of accommodation. Video of this panel is posted online under the title, “The Decline of California, Mike Davis and David Bacon” Part 1 and Part 2. Here is a transcription of excerpts from that video, beginning with an analogy that came to Davis while watching the recent remake of the movie, “The Taking of Pelham 123” about the hijacking of a New York City subway train.
Mike Davis: I kept thinking, “Is this set in Sacramento?” I mean, here you have the governor and his gang of Republicans, and they’re holding the people captive and threatening to shoot them one by one unless their demands for budget cuts and a new stage in the Republican fiscal revolution occurs. And on the other hand, you have the leadership of the Democratic Party in Sacramento, [Assembly Speaker] Karen Bass and [Senate President Pro Tem] Darrell Steinberg, saying, “Oh no, don’t shoot all the passengers, just shoot half the passengers… Continue reading Mike Davis and David Bacon on “The Decline of California” »
The economic crisis and rank-and-file pressure may be forcing a shift inside of the California Teachers Association leadership on the question of Proposition 13, split roll, or other tax and budget reforms. But given the history of timidity and false starts in 2004 and 2005, we can’t rely on CTA’s bureaucracy to rouse itself, let alone to mount an effective and sustained fight for progressive taxation. Continue reading Finding Allies in a Fight Back »
Proposition 13 is not the only problem with California’s tax system, and split roll is not the only needed fix. The California Tax Reform Association (CTRA) proposes dozens of ways (nearly all progressive ones) for California to tap $13-17 billion of new revenue annually, or double that amount when federal matching grants are factored in. Continue reading Fighting Forward: Beyond Proposition 13 »
California’s state government has passed three disastrous budgets in less than a year: last week’s pillage followed agreements in February and last September that similarly robbed billions from social programs. Those earlier packages also included gifts to corporations in the form of giant new tax loopholes. So how can we stop this recurring nightmare? (I’m sure the question applies across the U.S. these days.) In my last (too-long) post, I put out some general ideas for moving forward. Today’s post will get into more detail about one major issue we need to confront: Proposition 13. In the next post I’ll look at other needed progressive tax reforms, and in the following post, give some thoughts on starting to build a fight back.
Confronting Proposition 13
One of the most obvious reasons for California’s predicament is Proposition 13, the property tax-gutting measure that has devastated public schools and other services since it passed in 1979. The measure was sold to voters as tax-relief for homeowners, but the big winners have been big businesses. Since Prop 13’s passage the share of taxes paid by single-family residences has sharply risen, as the portion contributed by commercial and industrial properties has plummeted. That is because corporations avoid property reassessment for much longer periods than most homeowners do, by holding onto property longer or using legal loopholes to avoid reassessments even when they sell.
Before Prop 13 businesses contributed the lion’s share of property tax revenue; today single-family residences do. California’s Green Party says that businesses statewide used to shoulder 2/3 of property tax load to 1/3 for homeowners and that this proportion has virtually flipped. The county-specific percentages I’ve found for Los Angeles and San Francisco show a similar, if slightly less spectacular, trend.
So will the California Teachers Association (CTA) finally take up an effort to repeal Proposition 13? For years CTA leadership has focused narrowly on upholding Proposition 98’s funding guarantees for K-12. So CTA supported this “compromise budget” because it technically preserves Prop 98 “restores much needed funds to education once the economy improves.” (Never mind the history of the state government breaking similar promises in recent years to “pay it back.”)
Meanwhile CTA has limited its public criticism of Prop 13 to the part of that law requiring a 2/3 supermajority in each legislative body to pass revenue-related bills. True, that undemocratic provision ensures gridlock and favors fiscal conservatism and must change. But the larger problem is Prop 13’s huge corporate loopholes. Split roll taxation—treating corporate and industrial properties differently than individual homes—would provide a remedy.
CTA has long avoided campaigning for split roll, claiming that the public won’t support it. While a split roll initiative failed in 1992, much has changed since then. A Field Research survey last year found that the public narrowly supports a split roll that raises business taxes, and that an overwhelming majority favors an approach that lowers homeowners’ taxes. And maybe the latest budgetary kick in the face is getting through to CTA’s top leaders, too. More on that later.
I promised to offer alternatives to CTA’s historic pattern of defeatism and accommodation (discussed in the previous post). So today I’ll list a few fairly general things I think CTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association (NEA), should do to pull out of this long downward spiral of political retreat and increasing weakness. Continue reading What else can we do? »
California’s Democratic legislature and Republican governor have just agreed to a budget dealing new, devastating blows to poor and working people and another gift to corporations and the rich. It delivers $9 billion in cuts to kindergarten-through-university public education, and eliminates billions more in services to the families of low-income students. All proposals to mitigate the damage with new taxes, including a modest tax on oil production, were dropped. So naturally the California Teachers Association went all out to lobby for the budget’s approval. And when it passed Friday, CTA thanked “our many members who have reached out to Legislators and the Governor to ensure education is not forgotten during the budget crisis.” Continue reading The CTA Way: Declare Victory after Every Defeat »
My posts on the National Education Association’s 2009 Representative Assembly have focused so far on a new business item I introduced calling for a national strike for full funding a corporate expense. I should note, though, that aside from the brief time it took to squash that motion, a few other things happened during the four days of meetings attended by 9000 delegates from all over the country. Continue reading The NEA RA: a bleak look back and and hopeful look ahead »
I’m as willing to compromise as the next “wild-eyed” radical. (“Wild-eyed” is what anti-teachers union blogger Mike Antonucci called several motions Oakland delegates brought to this year’s NEA Representative Assembly in San Diego.)
So after the California delegation voted on July 3 to oppose my proposal for a two-day nationwide strike for fully funded public schools I considered some options. Continue reading “Educational Transformation, YES! (but…)” »
As last reported, the idea of a nationwide teachers walkout for full school funding at corporate expense was greeted by passionate cheers on July 2. That was at an NEA forum attended by several hundred delegates just one day before the organization’s four-day Representative Assembly opened in San Diego. And it was after the famous, charismatic, and eloquent author Michael Eric Dyson endorsed the proposal as “beautiful” and the potential impact “extraordinary.” I’m no Michael Eric Dyson. But maybe a few other factors also account for the very different reception given the idea just down the hall the next morning by most of the nearly 900 delegates in the California Caucus. Continue reading California Caucus Says No »