Corporate greed or the funding our schools need?

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Above, Alex with Eastman Elementary educators, many of whom walked for Jackie and are now walking for Measure EE and committing to getting three friends or family members to vote yes.

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The fight is on for Measure EE and the values it represents

There is one overwhelming punchline for all of us between now and June 4: We need to vote, we need to get others to vote, and we need to precinct walk to pass Measure EE.

Jackie Goldberg’s 71% to 29% landslide victory on May 14 was a watershed moment. She will fundamentally change the power dynamic on the LAUSD School Board. She has indelibly reinforced the positive influence of strikes with her constant reminder to the public that it was our strike that helped fuel her movement victory. And, most importantly, Jackie’s victory was a defining moment in that she immediately and aggressively turned to the importance of passing Measure EE on June 4.

There is some poetic justice to this: The teacher and elected official who has talked for decades about the need for massive funding for our schools has now been elected as we sit on the edge of winning that kind of funding for the first time in years.

At Jackie’s election night victory party, parents and teachers who had just walked for her started talking about the next, crucial precinct walks for Measure EE — folks inclduing Maria Osorio, Michelle Mariscal, and Ruby Gordillo from ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment); Eloisa Galindo, Jazmin Garcia, and Julie Regalado from Eastside Padres en Contra de la Privatización; Antonia Montes, Lucy Madera, and other great educators from Eastman Elementary; and more.

Jackie and these leaders understand some fundamental truths that make it essential that we all work for, vote for, and get others to vote for EE.

  • California is 44th out of 50 states in per-pupil funding and we can’t wait more decades to address it.
     
  • Chronic underfunding affects everything we and our students do — what materials and technology we have, how much we spend out of pocket at the beginning of each school year, our working and learning conditions through class size and caseload, how much unpaid work we have to do to catch up because of crazy working conditions, the threat of RIFs two to three years away, the threat against healthcare in the 2020 bargaining, the frustration that administrators force schools to choose between one essential service and another. You name it, it is affected by chronic underfunding. 
     
  • Measure EE is our first offensive attack in favor of school funding in decades. Props 30 and 55 helped us avoid immediate layoffs and cuts — they kept our heads above water. EE puts us on offense.
     
  • Our strike made it possible to bring a school funding measure forward. We shaped a positive narrative about school funding for the first time in decades. We don’t know how long public sentiment will be with us. We need to act quickly.
     
  • To build on our strike wins, we need EE. Our strike created a pathway to improve all schools, with investments in class-size reduction, staffing, and more. To double down on that pathway and make it last for more than two or three years, we need EE.
     
  • We need local revenue in order to reach 20 by 20. We are continuing to pressure the state for more funding, but to get to our goal of $20,000 per student by 2020 (which wouldn’t even put us at the top, but in the top 10 states), we are plain and simple going to need some local revenue in addition to state revenue. EE is that local revenue.
     
  • Parcel taxes are one of the only ways for school districts to fund themselves, thanks to the Prop. 13 corporate loophole that decimated school funding in 1978. LA needs to get with the program. Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and many other cities have recently passed parcel taxes for their schools. LA needs EE.
     
  • The small amount that homeowners like myself put toward EE will leverage a huge amount for schools coming for the first time from corporations. More than 70% of EE revenue comes from corporations and big businesses. This is truly a bargain for us. These corporations should have been paying for public education a long time ago, and Measure EE goes down that pathway.
     
  • The amount homeowners need to pay with EE is a small fraction of the pay raise we just got — and a small fraction of the next pay raise we could get with additional revenue in the district budget. Given this, voting against EE on financial grounds would be fundamentally illogical and would be akin to shooting yourself in the foot for future contract bargaining.
     
  • Measure EE funds will be the most transparent part of the LAUSD budget. There is clear ballot language guiding monies to class-size reduction, staffing, and more. Measure EE requires annual audits and an independent citizens’ oversight committee, and the measure sunsets after 12 years. Most powerfully, there is an unprecedented political coalition, including the mayor, labor, LAUSD, and the LA City Council, insisting that the money go to the classroom. 

 

Big businesses’ scorched-earth campaign

And, there is another fundamental truth. Big business is employing a scorched-earth campaign to defeat Measure EE with lies and distortions—all because they don’t respect public education and they want to protect corporations from having to pay more than 70% of EE revenues. 

The LA Chamber of Commerce is leading this despicable charge. The chamber has acknowledged the need for more funding, but cynically says it will support more funding only if homeowners pay more and corporations pay less. The chamber’s partner in “No on EE” is the Howard Jarvis Association, the same organization that brought us the corporate loophole in Prop. 13 in 1978, which gutted school funding. The Chamber and Jarvis Association have hired consultants from big tobacco and big oil to run their campaign.

With the same kind of desperation that the district showed as our strike grew close, “No on EE” is trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt — FUD. Remember the district’s meritless special education lawsuit trying to prevent special education teachers from striking?

In the case of “No on EE,” their own meritless lawsuit has been filed against EE.

The “No on EE” campaign is drawing from the worst anti-union, anti-teacher movements. They claim LAUSD educators are overpaid and our healthcare and retirement are too generous. This bashing of teachers and our union is reprehensible.

It is clear that a vote for EE is not just a vote for $500 million for our students and schools—a vote for EE is a vote in support of public education, a vote in support of collective action, and a vote against those who would malign and destroy public schools and those who teach in them. 

 

How we get to 66.7% of the vote

To win $500 million for our students and schools, we must get 66.7% of the vote (that high threshold is another result of Jarvis’ Prop. 13 efforts to strangle public spending). Every single one of us must participate in two things to get us to 66.7%.

Every single one of the almost 16,000 of us who are registered to vote within LAUSD boundaries needs to vote for Measure EE. In thousands of individual conversations we have tracked, we are showing that almost 90% of our UTLA members support EE — we need to turn that support into concrete votes. Moreover, every single one of us who is registered to vote within LAUSD boundaries should ensure that two other people we know — family or friends outside of education — vote for EE.

That is 48,000 votes right there. Moreover, if every one of us who does NOT live within LAUSD boundaries finds one person within LAUSD to vote for EE (bird-dog them to make sure they vote!), we are at 65,000 votes, which would be a very substantial chunk of what we need to win. If we are focused on the future of public education and we are disciplined, we can do all of the above.

 

SIGN UP TO WALK FOR MEASURE EE

A blue clip art figure of a person walking.
Every single one of us should sign up for Measure EE precinct-walking

SIGN UP TO WALK

Our strike, and the strikes that followed in Denver, Oakland, and again in West Virginia, have made this the year of the teacher. People want to talk to us when we knock on doors.

There is nothing more compelling to voters than talking to a teacher at their door who is volunteering. We have very organized, very targeted precinct walks that we must have thousands involved in. This is where our other tens of thousands of votes lie that we need for victory.

Sign up for precinct-walking right now for $500 million for our students and schools. There are walking sites all over the city, and we must make history with the EE effort.

As I close, I want to say that there was something beautiful about Tuesday, May 21. At the same time that Jackie Goldberg, the champion of school funding and Measure EE, was sitting in her first meeting as a school board member this term, a group of more than 100 parents and students protested outside the LA Chamber of Commerce for its reprehensible fight against our students and schools.

Students Deserve member Mohammad Howlader from Miguel Contreras Learning Complex made it simple: "LA Chamber of Commerce, why are you fighting against my rights? With the strike, we won class-size reduction. But, we still have to push class sizes down more. Why are you fighting against my right to be in a classroom with less than 40 students? Why are you fighting against my school’s right to have EE money?"

And UTLA member Canek Pena-Vargas from Contreras closed it up perfectly: "My parents are teachers, I’m a teacher, my wife is a teacher, my kids go to LAUSD schools, my parents are homeowners, and I’m a new homeowner. I know EE is good for me, my family, our schools, our students, and our city. Every movement has many different acts. The strike was Act 1. Passing EE is Act 2. Corporate greed, get out of our way. We need EE."

I am inspired by you and by our movement.

 

Let’s double-down for EE:

► Focus on voting.

► Focus on bird-dogging others to vote.

► Focus on precinct-walking.

 

We have made history this school year. Over the next two weeks, we need to make more.

Let’s do this and win EE! You are wonderful.