My mom is 75 years young. She is a retired school teacher and was president of her local teachers' union in the 70s when she was teaching in San Marcos, CA. The income she receives from her State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) pension is enough to pay her rent and provide a decent standard of living, without it my siblings and I would be hard pressed to keep her comfortable. She has no separate 401 k and she receives no Social Security. My brother and sisters (one of which is employed today as a public school teacher in San Marcos, CA) are thankful for the retirement she and her union negotiated 30+ years ago. When I was a kid, I spent many hours in hospitals and doctor offices for broken bones and other normal childhood maladies. My mom was a single mother but, because of the health plan she and her union negotiated, medical bills were never devastating for us. The CTA (California Teachers Association) has been a part of my life for more than 40 years and our family has benefitted more from their efforts than most teachers working today. I understand how important CTA and collective bargaining rights are to teachers and their families today but these are different times and, unfortunately, the State of California can't continue in the direction we are heading.
I don't want to see what has just happened in San Diego and San Jose happening in Beaumont. I also don't want to see Beaumont to be facing bankruptcy like Stockton. I don't want to see the bitter divide between public employees and everyone else that we are seeing in Wisconsin take place here in California but, unless something drastically happens, I don't think we can avoid it. I'm not suggesting that any drastic changes need to be made to the rights and benefits our teachers and classified staff have already negotiated for themselves. I'm just saying we need to take a different approach for the new teachers we hire today and in the future. I don't know what that approach is but I do know if teachers aren't included and don't embrace finding a new solution nothing is going to change but something is going to have to give, the current approach isn't sustainable.
I have spoken to many teachers throughout my life and most of them agree that what was viable 30 years ago isn't viable today. I've heard from many teachers that they are willing to consider alternatives but they know their state union leaders aren't willing to consider changing the status quo. What I was trying to say in my earlier comment on my Facebook page was that the community of Beaumont supports their teachers and classified staff and we don't want them to be the scapegoats of the bad policies of our State and Federal governments. We don't want to see their rights to negotiate for their families taken away. Unfortunately, because of the structure of the CTA and the reluctance of its leaders to change their way of life, there isn't much parents and teachers at the local level can do to make a change.
Beginning tomorrow morning, 6/8/12 at 6:30 am, you will find me at the Starbucks on Beaumont Ave in the Stater Brothers shopping center. Please stop by and let's talk about what we can do to make a difference in Beaumont.