The California Federation of Teachers takes policy positions on not only educational issues, but also social, economic and cultural issues that underlie the union’s mission. The CFT takes these positions because education does not take place in a vacuum: Changes in the world, whether political, social, economic or philosophical, affect students and educators, and in turn, the educational process.
The Federation demonstrates adherence to these principles in positions it takes on legislation and state ballot propositions, and in its endorsements of candidates at all levels
Achieving academic excellence
Provide universal preschool A quality early start is the best predictor of student success. Implementing universal preschool would ensure that California’s children have quality education from the beginning, and would replace the patchwork quilt of public programs that serve less than 15 percent of our more than 1 million three- and four-year-olds. Policymakers need to address the need for quality early education as well as professional qualifications and pay for the workforce serving California’s pre-K population.
Promote small class sizes and student accommodation Students perform best, and teachers are most effective, in smaller classes. To raise their levels of achievement, underperforming schools and students need the extra attention and resources that human-scale schools and classes provide. Special education classes should be smaller, and special education students taking the high school exit exam need individualized accommodations.
Monitor Common Core standards implementation and develop fair assessments Students need rich, well-rounded curricula that are developmentally appropriate, and horizontally and vertically aligned. The Common Core standards, which California recently adopted, provide an opportunity to move in this direction. Full and effective implementation of the Common Core standards requires professional development, time, and other resources. The Federation is also committed to deep engagement in the development of assessments aligned to the new standards.
Encourage career technical paths Teens and young adults need age-appropriate career technical education and counseling systems that recognize the value of vocational paths and safe work practices. California needs to provide more funding to recruit, retain, and credential individuals with experience in vocational and technical fields.
Ending the budget crisis
Restore education funding The California Federation of Teachers was a co-author of Proposition 30, which prevented billions of dollars in “trigger cuts” to education and which will raise $6 billion per year in the near-term. But Prop. 30 does not solve all of California’s problems; it’s a first step. After years of reducing public services, especially education, there are large holes to fill in programs needed by millions of Californians. California ranks near the bottom among the states in K-12 per student spending; it also ranks near the bottom in the level of state support for community colleges. As the state budget improves, policymakers must provide funding to restore cuts to basic education programs, to enhance student learning, and to build a strong foundation for California’s future economy.
Promote tax reform Fair tax policies are the financial foundation of a modern society. Federal tax breaks for the rich have resulted in federally funded school programs being starved by the massive and growing national deficit. In California, where property taxes have been the most reliable source to fund public services, Proposition 13 created inequalities between commercial and residential taxes, as well as within the residential tax structures itself. CFT believes an important area of reform is lowering the two-thirds vote required to pass local tax measures.
Meeting fiscal challenges
Don’t shortchange support staff State budget cuts have often resulted in the cutting back of hours, days of service, or even entire positions in the classified service. In all divisions of education, support staff should be compensated appropriately, and no district should be allowed to circumvent payment of health or retirement benefits by continuously employing people just below the threshold necessary to be eligible for benefits.
Maintain equity funds for adjuncts The community colleges need additional state budget dollars to help equalize pay and health benefits for part-time faculty, as well as to provide paid office hours for adjunct faculty to meet with students. Funds designated for these purposes have been won through significant legislative efforts, and as line items in the state budget, must be not be collapsed, but rather sustained and implemented to overcome historical neglect.
Prioritize adult education These programs, whether offered in K–12 or community college districts, offer adults a second chance, and many recent immigrants a first chance, at practical education. Yet in the aftermath of Proposition 13, legislators built a separate funding system for adult education courses based on then-inadequate levels. After the Legislature made K-12 adult education funding “flexible,” allowing it to be used for any purpose in the district, many school districts shortchanged or completely eliminated these essential programs. It is clear that adult education programs need adequate funding to help Californians gain basic skills and vocational training to fuel the recovering economy.
Demand transparency at UC Though the University of California receives funding from numerous sources, it has traditionally asserted that the funds it receives from the state pay for librarian and lecturer positions represented by UC-AFT. To provide needed transparency, the university must identify how it spends state funds, how much it spends on direct instruction of students, how much it spends on campus libraries, and how much it spends on administration.
Defending workplace rights
Protect due process Restricting workplace freedoms has a chilling effect on the classroom and on job performance. Educators have a right to due process in all aspects of their professional lives. Contrary to popular myth, if administrators properly document incompetence or other serious problems, any teacher can be terminated. Further, the Education Code gives administrators authority to immediately remove any teacher suspected of improper conduct with a student or adult. Denying educators due process rights can harm our schools and education system.
Seek pay equity and secure employment As schools, colleges, and universities increasingly rely on part-time workers, no employer should be allowed to deny security of employment by using the simple device of classifying workers as “temporary” year after year. Adjunct faculty in the community colleges should receive equal pay for equal work. Lecturers and librarians at UC must be recognized for their equal contribution in educating university students.
End outsourcing When schools and colleges lay off support staff and outsource essential services, research has shown that these contracted out programs may enjoy short-term savings at the expense of increased long-term costs. Additionally, outsourcing services disrupts campus stability, demoralizes staff, and leaves districts vulnerable to being held hostage financially in later years.
Maintain safe and secure schools Student achievement suffers when school safety breaks down. Students must face consequences for bringing drugs or weapons to school, or assaulting or bullying another student or school employee. In addition, given the increases in violent incidents on school campus that require “lockdowns,” it is critical that classrooms have function locks that can lock from the inside during an emergency. School security cannot be compromised, even with the state’s fiscal challenges.
Providing affordable healthcare
Fight cost shifts Paying for the rising cost of healthcare impacts school and college districts, hampering their ability to deliver quality education to the very students they serve. Lack of school nurses and accessible health care impacts a student’s ability to learn. In these times, districts must resist shifting the growing cost of insurance premiums to employees.
Enact single payer The state must move toward single payer universal healthcare, and, meanwhile, enact effective health insurance reform, reduce waste and extend coverage. All Californians should have access to quality healthcare. The lack of adequate healthcare coverage impacts the work of educators, and the learning conditions of students.
Demanding secure retirement
Protect retirement funds Educators should not have to worry about whether they will be able to make ends meet after they conclude their years of service. CalSTRS is currently working on funding strategy options to address the long-term funding needs of the defined benefit program. Any change should be gradual to enable the affected parties to better absorb the fiscal impact of the increase in their budgets and collective bargaining discussions. Abrupt contribution increases would drive workers out of education and civil service and undermine educator pensions. To defend secure retirements, and monitor CalSTRS and CalPERS in particular, CFT works with a coalition of more than 1.5 million public employees and retirees.
The go-to site for finding the language of a bill, amendments, and where a bill is in the legislative process. The site also contains California Codes, including the Education Code.