There is a saying, that to see where someone’s heart is, see how they spend their money. In fact, this proverb is so well-worn, it first appears in the New Testament of the Bible–Luke 12:34—“For where your treasure is, so will your heart be also.”
When it comes to public education today in California, it is clear to see where the heart of the state’s largest and best-funded special interest group–the California Teachers Association–rests, and it’s not with our kids.
Battle lines have been drawn around the future of our schools this year–both in the courts and at the ballot box. Earlier this year, the CTA was handed its first rebuke in recent memory, when a superior court judge ruled against the state (and the union as a co-defendant) in Vergara vs. California, saying that teacher tenure and retention laws so adversely affected student performance that it “shocks the conscience.”
Not surprisingly then, rather than act on behalf of the nine students suing on behalf of their classmates for a better education, incumbent Tom Torlakson duly immediately appealed the judge’s ruling at the behest of the CTA, calling the case “wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.”
CTA won’t have to pick up the tab for the Vergara appeal—they’ll rely on us, the taxpayers to do that for them. But when it comes to electoral politics, they’ve already opened up the checkbook and are ready to spend much, much more to get their way in November.
Earlier this year, Marshall Tuck, a first-time political candidate and school leader, both as a charter schools president and as the director who led the turnaround of 17 Los Angeles Schools in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, survived an onslaught of CTA-funded attacks during the June Primary Election to face incumbent Torlakson next month.
Spending almost four million dollars, the CTA attempted to nuke Tuck in the political crib–twisting his record and propping up their own puppet, Torlakson, as a champion of “local control.” But for the second time this year, despite spending enormous amounts of their members’ money, the union didn’t get its desired result.
And as we close in on Election Day, the race for State Superintendent of Education is the only competitive statewide race on the ballot. Despite never having held public office, Tuck leads in the latest poll 31%-28%.
Tuck has run a spirited and lively campaign that generates enthusiasm and new support–from Republicans and Democrats alike, with his impassioned belief that we can and must do better for our school kids. The fact that California ranks 45th in math and reading nationally, is a disgrace–and the CTA plans on doing all it can to preserve a system that works for them–at the expense of students.
Just last week, it was made public that the union has already amassed millions of dollars in attack ads aimed directly at Tuck and his upstart, reform-minded campaign. The CTA cannot and will not tolerate another loss this year. A challenge to their hegemony must be rooted out with everything at their disposal.
When this barrage begins, don’t believe a word of it. Far from having our kids’ best interests at heart, the CTA, and the political system they have populated, funded, and from which they demand unflinching loyalty, will do all it can to derail Tuck’s effort to put parents and students back in charge of education in this state.
Want to know what the CTA and their allies truly care about? Watch how they spend their money in the next two weeks. It will tell you all you need to know.
Reed Galen is a political consultant in California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.