Back from a Five-Year Break

From early 2010 until now, this website fell silent.  Even before then, full-time teaching and union work made it difficult to keep the writing up.  That year I became even more fully consumed with a (losing) fight against the closure of my high school, followed by a long period of upheaval and harassment, courtesy of Oakland Unified School District administration.

A massively documented grievance and Unfair Labor Practice charge eventually backed them off. I ended up at a middle school in the hills with a far more diverse student body–racially and economically–than I’d seen in nearly two decades in Oakland’s poorest Black and Latino neighborhoods. Not coincidentally, conditions in the hills school were much better than where I’d taught before, though far from adequate to meet the needs of every student.

I retired from full-time teaching in 2014 and now substitute occasionally, while remaining very active in OEA.  In 2016, Real School Reform will become a real website again, with regular posts and recorded interviews. Stay tuned.

Mike Davis and David Bacon on “The Decline of California”

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…

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Finding Allies in a Fight Back

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.

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Fighting Forward: Beyond Proposition 13

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.

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