Teachers Launch New Ad Against Whitman

Comments (5)

CTA Television Ad

Meg Whitman's budget plans are about to get a healthy dose of political gunfire from an interest group with plenty of financial ammunition.

The California Teachers Association announced this evening that they're launching a new campaign TV ad attacking the GOP nominee for her budget plans that, they say, would amount to a $7 billion cut in funding for public schools.

The ad drew an instant rebuke from the Whitman camp, with spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera emailing to say that "the CTA gets an F for accuracy on this ad."

And it does seem that the teachers union is doing a bit of interpreting about how Whitman's calls to trim state spending would impact education.

The ad sinks or swims on Whitman's campaign pledge that she can reduce state spending by $15 billion; when pressed about this earlier this year, she said that the $15 billion is a savings over the course of four years, not one. But CTA spokesperson Sandra Jackson said in an email late this afternoon that "since public education is about half of the state budget," then the candidate's $15 billion trimming should be considered to equal a $7 billion hit to schools.

"Any cuts after $17 billion over [the last] two years is too much, whether it's spread over four years or not," wrote Jackson.

The trouble with the $7 billion figure is that Whitman has never said she'll cut school spending, though the ad says she has. When I interviewed Whitman in May, the statement she made that drew ire from the education community was that she thinks schools have enough money, but aren't spending it properly. But that's different than actually advocating for less school funding. Granted, shrinking the state budget by about $3.5 billion a year through 2015 would be tough to do without touching schools, but there's no mandate that any such reductions be made in the same proportion as is existing spending.

Such a cutback would also likely require the formal suspension of the school funding guarantee, Proposition 98. Whitman has not advocated such a move (which, coincidentally, is under discussion this year for only the second time since Prop 98's enactment by voters in 1988).

Photo: John Myers

On the other hand, Whitman hasn't offered a fully detailed proposal to back up the $15 billion reduction, choosing instead to proclaim that large savings can be found through rooting out waste, reforming welfare assistance, and reducing the state workforce.

Her education plan includes more charter schools and a new A-through-F grading system of public schools, proposals which no doubt make the CTA and other education interest groups leery. Meantime, the conclusion of the ad does touch on an issue not well fleshed out by the candidate: how her proposed elimination of the capital gains tax would impact state revenues in the short-term... a large percentage of which are earmarked (by Prop 98) for schools.

But stepping back just to examine the politics, the CTA ad could be another phase of the independent expenditure campaign against Whitman. While we don't know the size of the initial ad buy, it's a less salient question when you talk about the teachers union, which is one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- player in state politics in recent years. If they want to blanket the airwaves, they've got the cash in the bank. Whitman's campaign has taken to calling the union-backed efforts against her "Jerry, Inc." -- a reference to Jerry Brown's many allies in organized labor who've stepped forward to critique the former CEO over the summer. And Team Whitman is already lumping the CTA into the 'incorporated' lot of the candidate's union critics.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • maria gonzales

    Perhaps, teachers in California should expend much more energy and focus on producing better students. With the exception of a handful of schools throughout the state, students are not as prepared. The constant concern of students barely sliding through from year to another, seems to falling further behind in their political agenda. Teachers are so politically wrapped up in the money arena, the classroom arena is very neglected. Greed has taken over.

  • maria gonzales

    I have spoken to countless teachers in California, who were irate that their CTA membership money was being used for so much of this same politcal argument and not for what they felt was the intended purpose. CTA, is so big, so out of control, so powerful, yet the very educator they are suppose to support remain neglected and ignored. Imagine the students who fall prey to this organization whose political muscle is leaving the real cause behind.

  • Tony Waters

    I am not a CTA member, but as a CSU faculty member, I do belong to CFA. We cannot as individuals bargain effectively with the administration, so we do it as a group. Most of of what CFA and CTA do has little to do with state elections–rather it is representing employees in what is inherently an adversarial relationship with management. I was really glad when they were there last year when there were so many lay offs–and in that context I trusted CFA to safeguard my future, more than the university administration. Still in that context, the administration still very much held the upper hand throughout the year.

    It is a myth that “the unions” control state government, schools, or anything else.

  • Tony Otoniel

    CTA leadership is out of control. The leadership has lost billions in the Casino I mean stock market and the persons responsible for those investment losses have not been fired. The losses are partially responsible for CalSTRS being underfunded. And now, the union leaders are spending money on political issues that are not advocating for better pay and better working conditions for teachers. Someone needs to conduct an investigation into the actions of this union (at the State or Federal level).

  • So-Crates

    So, the CTA is “doing a bit of interpreting here” with this ad. Meanwhile, NutMeg continues to OUTRIGHT LIE about Brown’s record.

    Sounds like politics as usual, if you ask me.