We won. Okay, I’ll be a little more specific. The November election came and went, with voters providing San Jose Unified with a boost in both confidence and cash…
On the state level, Proposition 32 did not pass while Proposition 30 did. Both were huge wins for teachers. Proposition 30 was a sales and income tax increase initiative backed by Governor Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association (our parent organization). It increases California’s sales tax to 7.5% from the current 7.25%. It also creates three new tax brackets for high income earners at the levels of $250,000 (who will now be taxed at 10.3%), $300,000 (who will now be taxed at 11.3%), and $500,000 (who will now be taxed at 12.3%).
The additional tax burden will fall onto the top 3% of Californians, according to the California Franchise Tax Board Data. The estimated revenue is somewhere between $7 billion and $9 billion, with much of that money going directly to fund schools so there are no more cuts to education.
In case you forgot, Proposition 32 was a thinly-veiled attacked on unions and middle class workers. It was an attempt to silence our voices and make louder the voices of wealthy corporations and contributors who already have a monetary advantage in both campaigns and governance. If it had passed, Prop 32 would have had a profound impact on SJTA and the California labor movement as a whole.
The idea behind Prop 32 was to ban corporate, union, and governmental organizations from automatically deducting money from employee paychecks for political purposes in order to get special interest money out of politics. Good idea in theory. However, upon closer inspection, Prop 32 allowed exemptions for certain corporations such as LLCs, partnerships, or real estate trusts to play by different rules. For example, if you are a wealthy real estate developer or law firm, you would have been exempt from Prop 32 regulations. And those pesky Super PACs protected by the Citizen’s United ruling? Untouched. This is not to mention the fact that corporations outspend labor unions in California 15 to 1 on political contributions.
Despite its defeat, we can almost guarantee we will need to continue fighting battles such as Prop 32 in the future to defend our voice.
Locally, Measure H passed and the two SJTA-endorsed candidates for school board, Sandy Engel and Teresa Castellanos, won their respective seats. Measure H is a bond measure that provides the district an estimated $290 million. The money comes out of property taxes and goes directly towards capital improvement projects such as new or renovated buildings and updated technology in our libraries and classrooms. (I’m sad I’ll have to say goodbye to eMacs, which are so outdated they are the last Apple product without an “i” in front of them). At the school board level, Sandy and Teresa are both welcome additions and will be strong voices for our students and our teachers.
I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said that we are finding ourselves in one of the most momentous times in SJTA history. The reason I say this is because of the scale in which our union is fighting for control of our profession and because of the scale at which so many other forces are fighting unions. The political battles that we found ourselves in are shaping the way we will proceed in the future.
The November 6th election provided us an opportunity to grow as well as halt the attacks not only against teachers but also our union. We succeeded in 2012, and we will continue to succeed and progress together as an association. Through having a progressive voice for our needs on the school board, taking charge of our profession at the bargaining table, and finding the funds to start building and implementing the necessary steps for our students to be successful, it is an exciting time to be a San José teacher.