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Letters: A union's power in Sacramento

August 25, 2012
  • California Teachers Assn. members join others at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to protest budget cuts to statewide education. The union holds sway over Democrats -- labor's traditionally ally -- and Republicans alike.
California Teachers Assn. members join others at Pershing Square in downtown… (Los Angeles Times )

Re "A Capitol force," Aug. 20

Without doubt the California Teachers Assn. is a big dog in California politics, and The Times does a good job describing the clout the CTA has had over the years. However, the article seems to take at face value the claims by so-called education reformers who criticize the CTA. There is no proof that their ideas — merit pay, value-added assessment, reduced seniority rights and charter schools — will actually improve educational outcomes if only the "big bad union" were cut down to size.

Education policy has been on the wrong track since No Child Left Behind. President Obama's Race to the Top only intensifies No Child Left Behind's bad effects. Meanwhile, many states, including California, are in the throes of devastating fiscal crises and continue to cut teachers and other school personnel. And the CTA is the problem?

Here's an untried idea: Give every school the resources and support to be a great school rather than threaten to close schools because their scores on one test did not meet some arbitrary cutoff point.

Yes, the CTA is powerful. It's certainly not always right. But if we are serious about reforming public education the right way, teachers need to be part of the solution, and the CTA as their representative has to be a respected part of the process in California.

Brad Jones

Santa Monica

The writer has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 29 years.

The Times exposes the CTA as an overbearing special interest group working counter to the interests of students. Shame on the teachers who belong to this organization and allow it to perpetuate a system that doesn't prioritize students' interests.

The CTA dictates terms to lawmakers after doling out hefty sums to their campaigns. All the while excellent teachers are laid off because of an antiquated union seniority system.

It seems the only ones trying to challenge this special interest are people like Dave Welch and his Students Matter organization. He is trying to do this through the courts, for which I applaud him.

J.W. Burk

Santa Barbara

If the CTA is so powerful, why has my class size ballooned? Why have many of my colleagues been let go? Why must I use old textbooks? Why I am I reduced to begging parents for paper and pencils? Why have so many students been priced out of higher education?

While you were at it, why didn't you hold the CTA responsible for Wall Street's destruction of our economy?

If teachers and their union had the power you imply they do, California would be in a far better place than it is under a system that grants tax loopholes to corporations.

Madeline Shapiro

Whittier

The Times' article should anger every California voter. For politicians to consider the 325,000 CTA members, less than 1% of the state's population, practically a "co-equal fourth branch of government" should cause alarm.

How does the average citizen counter such power? We do so by making the union's position a part of our decision-making process. If unions spend significant money buying a politician, we should vote against him. If the unions support a ballot measure, that should be considered when making up our minds how to vote.

Alan L. Strzemieczny

Riverside

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