Teachers Plan Capitol Protest, Wisconsin Style

Comments (19)

Note: This story has been updated from its original verbage to reflect my interview with the president of the CTA. --JM

Getty/Justin Sullivan

In the days leading up to Governor Jerry Brown's release of a revised budget next month, the state Capitol is going to be the scene of a major protest by teachers... one that could have shades of the marathon sit-in last month in Wisconsin.

Calling the event the "California State of Emergency," teachers say their goal is to get the Legislature to pass a budget that includes some $11 billion in tax extensions, the same ones the governor still says he wants placed on a statewide ballot this year.

"The week begins and ends with a group of educators (with others invited to join) taking over the State Capitol," says a document found online.

[See the PDF here.]

In a phone interview this afternoon, CTA president David Sanchez said the Wisconsin protests are indeed the model of the Capitol protest part of the events planned for the week of May 9-13. He says they intend to have a sit-in here at the Sacramento statehouse lasting all week, with six rallies in cities across the state on Friday the 13th.

"Our teachers are absolutely fed up with what's happening right now," said Sanchez.

The CTA was a big backer of Jerry Brown in the 2010 gubernatorial race, and remains so now. But the union is diverging from the governor on the issue of a special tax election, which Brown continues to insist could happen in September or as late as November. CTA president Sanchez says that any election beyond the Guv's preferred plan of June -- where the taxes have expired and thus become tax increases -- isn't a politically winnable play.

"I think it would be extremely challenging for the public to support that," said Sanchez.

Below is an audio excerpt of my interview with the CTA president on how to resolve the demand for a legislative tax proposal with the governor's campaign promise that voters would be the ones to ratify additional taxes.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

On the Capitol protest, it remains to be seen whether the comparison to the Wisconsin protests is a fair one. That month-long event was sparked by a proposal to change collective bargaining rights, a plan pushed by the state's new governor, Scott Walker.

There's no such proposal here in Sacramento, but the images of protesters, often teachers, camping out in the marble hallways of Madison's statehouse could be appealing to those who believe California's budget battle is just as serious.

The CTA online presentation says the week of events "is just the start of a long-term, cohesive plan" to focus on the state's fiscal woes. School districts around California will be facing some very tough choices that same week, as they make final decisions on which employees will be let go to save money. The CTA says in the past three years, some 30,000 educators and another 10,000 support staffers in the state have lost their jobs due to budget cuts.

A KQED colleague of mine first heard about the May protest plans last week. This morning, the former chairman of the California Republican Party apparently found some of the same documents online, blasting out a critique of the CTA plan to reporters.

Former GOP chair Ron Nehring also poses some questions in his email to reporters. "How much extra for substitute teachers will school districts be forced to spend while CTA teachers are busy protesting instead of teaching?" he writes.

Again, more from the CTA on the plans later this morning. The event will undoubtedly add some fiery rhetoric to a week that will be full of drama already, given the choices left for legislators to solve the remaining $15 billion budget shortfall. Governor Brown is scheduled to release his 'May Revise' of the budget on Monday, May 16.

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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.
  • RT

    I am not quite sure what the protests are supposed to do. Those who support them will continue to support them just as those who do not will continue to work against them.

    I think that these protests can be counter productive in California given its high unemployment rate. Here we have a bunch of employed people asking for more while so many Californians are just looking for a job.

  • Just Saying

    Ron Nehring ruined the California Republican Party (remember the whole red tide stopped here thing). He’s a smoke and mirror act. He has no skills and no real talent. His former colleagues know it which is why he was lost his RNC treasurer bid to a DC Committeeman. Does anyone care what this clown thinks anymore? How about asking the current CRP Chairman for a quote instead of continuing to give life to this has been who has nothing better to do than try to resuscitate his career my sending mass emails out to reporters. Memo to Ron Nehring: You almost single handedly destroyed CA Republican politics. You are irrelevant. Go away. The big boys are handling things now.

    Reply from John Myers: You’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but well-known players in state politics are often quoted by reporters… regardless of whether they still hold the office they once held. Seems reasonable to me to quote the immediate past party chair. Reasonable, too, to quote the current chair for a longer story… and I’m sure there will be more to report once the week of protests actually arrives.

  • http://soquelbythecreek.blogspot.com Soquel Creek

    This shouldn’t be a surprise.

    The California Teachers Association (CTA) is the #1 top spender in California politics, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The group gives nearly exclusively to only one political party, Governor Brown’s party.

    CHART: The 15 Biggest Spenders in California Politics
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-QYjqoLlSLHc/TWrGCBvd3zI/AAAAAAAAAjs/bRo2KjEibAo/s1600/big_spenders_in_ca_politics_barchart.png

    One of the issues confronting the California budget is public-pension reform, which Governor Brown has paid mere lip service. The Governor has produced a 12-point plan with few specifics and many of the suggested options are voluntary for public-sector unions.

    Even former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown sees that Jerry Brown won’t challenge the teachers union because he needs them as a political ally to help fight for his “temporary” tax hike.
    http://articles.sfgate.com/2011-02-27/bay-area/28635640_1_teachers-union-pensions-union-leaders

  • Matt

    Yes, the teachers are BROKE. Amazing. I cannot fathom how the public hasn’t completely outlawed public employee unions. Public unions have never ever improved the quality of anything, they just cost a whole lot more. I prefer more bang for the buck, not more bilions for the unions and their coffers. OUTLAW PUBLIC UNIONS NOW!

  • hello

    @Matt: I understand that you don’t like unions. But I am curious as to why you feel the teachers (and firefighter and police) “cost a whole lot more” because they opted to join one. Could you elaborate please? Thanks in advance.

  • Tiffany

    @Matt – “Public unions have never ever improved the quality of anything”… you show your ignorance with that statement alone. When trying to make an argument, you might want to have at least some factual element to it and not just spouting catch phrases you’ve heard on Fox News.

  • Mrs. Doubtfire

    Oh, my. This bicker, bicker, bicker is very upsetting. Mr. RT says the protests can be counterproductive when unemployment is high, because it involves a bunch of employed people asking for more. And here I thought it was about SAVING teacher jobs; you know, to keep them employed. I may be just a cross-dressing nanny, but I’m almost certain that more jobs results in less unemployment. Matt says that unions just make things cost more. Well, I have to agree with that. My mother was a teacher, and I remember how, after the whole teaching staff went union, she no longer had to take in laundry to make ends meet. One of my guiltiest pleasures in life was spending more time with her after that, but I do feel for the taxpayers who got less bang for their buck. Oh, and Matt? Do re-read the article, dear. It’s not even ABOUT Mr. Nehring.

  • ExZonie

    Great argument Tiffany! Let’s raise taxes to 200% of the sales price of everything! Problem solved! Oh and I live in Arizona and I can’t wait for more of your prosperous California taxpayers and companies to wake up, move over here and contribute to OUR economy while yours circles the bowl!

  • ExZonie

    Mrs. DF: “I’m almost certain that more jobs results in less unemployment.”

    Government jobs don’t count because they require private employees and businesses to support them, leaving less for private employment, and ending in a death spiral.

    I think children should attend school online wherever possible. Think of the billions it would save! and the classes could be provided by anyone, not just union teachers shackled to a nineteenth century schoolroom model based on the factory floor. Even a brilliant mathematician in China, Russia or India could teach math! I, an English major and a writer of over 20 years, could finally teach English! Think of the possibilities!

    Separation of school and state now!

  • http://laurenstephens.com xlaurenstephens

    lol this is funny. maybe if these teachers had any brains, they would pay attention to the fact that the union thuggery here in wisconsin just cost the libtards the supreme court election. or to put it more simply…. NO ONE HERE supports these idiots! im so glad i moved out of california.

  • hello

    @Ex: If government jobs don’t count because “they require private employees and businesses to support them” then neither do government contractors–like Boehing, HP, Xerox, etc. Name a private company (e.g., AT&T, Verizon) and you are naming a government contractor. A contractor that is being supported by taxes and which therefore by your logic does not count.

  • Jerry

    Glad to see that ignorance is not a monopoly for California. “No one supports the Unions in Wisconsin”? Please explain how an incumbent judge who was leading by 30% in February ended up in a 50%-50% race in April- after the Wisconsin GOP showed their real designs? And Prosser hasn’t won yet…the mystery 12,000 votes that suddenly showed up on his former aides(now Co. Clerk of Waukesha) computer two days after the election is being investigated…which will open up a long history of voting fraud in Waukesha.
    The real issue in California is that a small minority of Republicans refuse to touch the corporate tax base- Prop. 13 for corporations has not only starved schools, hospitals, parks, police, fire, universities, etc. of the needed funds…but also have prevented new companies from starting up or moving to California. They are at a tremendous competitive disadvantage since they have to compete with “tax protected” firms that were in California before the 1980’s. It’s absurd that two companies, side-by-side with the same property footage may pay $100,000 difference in property tax.

    Finally, unless the GOP agrees to let California vote on retaining the taxes that helped reduced the state deficit the amount of cuts will be double that faced now. Everything from High School sports, theater and student organizations could be cut…all the way to a doubling of University and college tuition (UC going from $10K to $20K; CSU from $5K to $10K). State parks will be closed with essential roads blocked off that people in rural counties use to transit through them to their communities, requiring as much as 30-50 mile detours.

    Thank you state GOP Senators and Assemblymen…I hope you face the storm from what you have wrought.

  • hello

    @ xlaurenstephens: You may be interested in this article: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/52359.html . It begins with “Many cops and firefighters have thrown their allegiance to the GOP for years — union members who frequently stray from labor’s longtime support for Democrats.

    A host of new Republican governors is changing all that.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/52359.html#ixzz1JQeaywft

  • http://savagehonesty@blogger.com Savage Honesty

    @RT – you are right, there is rampant unemployment – and over 30,000 teaching jobs have been lost in the past few years. This has a cascading effect on the education of our children: cut programs, larger class sizes, reduced sports, etc. Over the past few years of cuts, education has taken 60% of the cuts even though it is only 40% of the budget – and even though it is only funded 80 cents on the dollar of what the state owes it.

    This is as much about our children as it is about teacher jobs. How can we expect to get out of the current fiscal crisis if we cannot – or will not – provide the education necessary for our children to competed in a global economy? Any recovery must include the next generation of workers. Occupying the capitol seems like it isn’t enough – maybe we should be picketing outside of those Republican’s mansions while they slash and burn our childrens future.

  • tucson82

    The world has gone mad. Did you see the Wisconsin protests? Did you witness the behavior of many of the protesters (including the ones bussed in)?
    Civility and integrity have flown out the window.
    Unions had their purpose early on, but now all I see is thuggery, threats, with unions taking money from workers and using it for political purposes (as well as lining their own pockets). Seriously, what image comes to your mind when you hear “union boss”?

  • hello

    @Soquel: Are you trying to say that the CTA contributed more money to political campaigns than say Republican Meg Whitman?

  • scienceguy

    CTA should not be spending any money on political campaigns. The money should be spent on PR campaigns to improve the image of teachers in CA. If you doubt this, just read the comments to California State Of Emergency on the Blaze.com

  • http://blogs.kqed.org/capitalnotes/2011/04/12/teachers-plan-capitol-protest-wisconsin-style/ David Merritt

    It’s about time teachers and others affected by the Republican’s 30-year assault on our nation’s education system protest loud and long! It’s time to pop a few cans of spinach and put that Republican Bluto in his place. It’s not too late for regular folks to recognize how they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes by multinational corporations and the wealthy whose endless drive for profits has led them to be willing to destroy the public services we all need.

  • Joe Hill

    I’m delighted that so many folks with facts and good prose under their power manage to answer the blasts of anti-union, anti-government, anti-American rhetoric I’ve just read. What image comes to mind when you think of “union boss”? I don’t suppose “corporate welfare” conjures up anything to these dullards.
    My contribution to the debate is that one needs to see the context. Our rulers, and fellow Americans, are not out to destroy us, but. to use that felicitous neologism from war, our lives are just “collateral damage”. Their goal is to maximize profits, and the newest target is public education. They have already privatized the armed forces and health care and prisons, education is the next big gold mine. Just google “educational management organizations” or, as I did, research the “educational reform movement.” EMO’s will do as much for improving education as HMO’s have done for providing quality health care.
    The point is to under-fund education, point to its deficiencies, trash it, and then privatize it. This is, of course, a variation on the Grover Norquist strategy. I thought I’d be dead before I’d witness this, but it looks like it will happen in my lifetime. A fellow who thinks that education can be delivered by computers obviously hasn’t learned much of anything about life at all. So, the venture capitalists, the so-called liberal reformers like Gates and Eli Broad, and the right-wing ideologues are all joining hands (I forgot the obysmal Democrats) to destroy local run public schools. Always taking advantage of natural disaster, New Orleans was a grand testing case, and this unholy trio won there. The CTA, the AFT, the NEA (like the labor movement in general) are going to oversee the end of public education unless they fight back with a general strike and the public support we have because most families respect their childrens’ teachers. Our backs are to the wall here, and the right is poised to deliver the final blow. The public discourse, as one can see from these most ignorant comments, has already moved to the right. These silly people have no idea that it was workers and unions that built this nation and our present wealth now so unequally distributed.
    No matter how democratic or undemocratic they are; and the goal as with government is to make them more so; without unions, we are all back on the plantation.