- Written by Stephan Early
02 Oct 2012
VIEW FROM HERE - The Chicago Teachers are done with their strike. When I read about it I couldn’t help but draw comparisons and wonder if LA is next.
Class sizes at Eagle Rock High School are some of the highest in the nation. I have 47, 48, 49 students in a class. The custodial staff has been reduced to less than half—and the rooms are cleaned once a week, maybe. I can’t remember the last time we got a raise or even a cost-of-living increase. Every year for the last five it’s been a cut.
In Chicago they were given more money to cover the increase in class time—and that was called a “raise.” Here, we are looking at pay cuts, which are also called furlough days.
A furlough day is when you don’t go to work on a day you usually had work and then you don’t get paid for it. A pay cut is when they just take your pay and you never had to work that day, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving. Both are being described as furlough days and if Prop. 30 doesn’t pass there will be four or five more “furlough” days. Whatever you call them, students will have less school time, the teachers less pay. Welcome to Newspeak.
Public Education is one of the only institutions in our society that maintains, for the society, a semblance of Democracy and Meritocracy. Even in the toughest schools in the worst neighborhoods there are young people who have internalized the notion of educational achievement as a path out of poverty and a way up from working class poor into the middle class and possibly beyond.
The Mayor in Los Angeles has spoken of this many times. Ironically, he can now afford to send his children to very expensive private schools. But it was a public school education that helped him get a leg up.
Thirty years ago, when I started, it was considered honorable and even noble to take your college degree and head in to the toughest sections of the city. We were advancing toward full integration. Now, after years of organized denigration of the profession and the teachers who practice it, we are re-segregating, through Charters. Many of the lies told about teaching and teachers have been repeated so often they are taken as truth. I’ll try and go over them in a later column.
During the next election there will be two ballot measures that, if successful, will have a big affect on public education and Teachers Unions and all Unions. Prop 30 would increase taxes primarily on people making more than $250,000 a year. No teachers will be affected and, I would guess, very few school officials.
Lets broaden that and say you would have to be doing real well, making serious money, for this tax to affect you, and even then, if you’re in that tax bracket, half a million and up, you will already have hired some very clever lawyers and accountants who will circumvent the new tax.
Having stated that perhaps cynical point of view, I would still urge you to pass Prop Thirty. When you hear that it’s a tax increase, and I guarantee you’ll hear that a lot, please try to focus long enough to realize it’s not a tax on you—it’s on the wealthy.
This is the same redistribution plan that got Caesar killed, so it’s not a new idea. The income from this tax will be earmarked as increased revenue for education. Without this infusion of funds, budgets for Community Colleges that are already overcrowded and so restricted in course offerings that it’s very difficult to get in to the courses you need to finish and move on to the next level, will be further cut, effectively wiping out what was to have been an affordable way to achieve a college diploma. Another door will be shut on the working class poor, reminding us that California, which would rank eighth or ninth in the world if it were an independent nation, ranks 47th in education spending and class size.
The other Proposition is designed to silence the middle class Unions, Teachers, Firemen, Nurses, Police, and keep them from speaking out on behalf of their students, patients, and citizens in need. It will further demonize the Teachers and Firemen, Nurses and Police by referring to them as “special interest” groups who are perverting democracy, thereby clearing the field for wealthy elite organizations to continue to dominate and privatize the political process.
Again, this is an age-old battle. The Upper class works hard to stay the upper class and the Middle class tries to replace them, while the poor just try to stay alive—to survive. Eric Blair, the guy who wrote 1984, said that. Prop. 32 is that dictum in action.
The upper class, backed by the Koch brothers and many other anonymous billionaires, have set a course to disenfranchise and wipe out the gains made by the middle class. Prop 32 aids their goal by removing the Unions’ ability to be a player in the political process.
So to sum up, the upper class would like to slam shut education doors and political action avenues. Please don’t let them. Vote for Prop 30—and against 32. Preserve public education and protect the rights of Unions to be part of the political process.
It’s in the best interest of the 99 percent and, more importantly, it’s in your best interest and that of your children.
(Stephan Early blogs at EagleRock.Patch.com where this opinion piece was first posted.)
Vol 10 Issue 79
Pub: Oct 2, 2012