CFT President Pechthalt honored with United in Courage Award

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The Courage Campaign, a CFT community partner, awarded CFT President Josh Pechthalt with the United in Courage Award on April 22 in Sacramento. The United in Courage Award is given each year to a progressive leader who exemplifies courage and collaboration in the pursuit of a more fair and just society.

This year, the Courage Campaign feted Pechthalt for his influential work in bringing together a strong coalition of partners to ensure increased, yet progressively raised, state revenue for funding vital human services, including but not limited to public education in California. The Courage Campaign also pointed to Pechthalt’s fight for school-based healthcare services and expanded library hours so that children in California are healthy, safe and able to achieve their goals.

Josh Pechthalt comments at Courage Award dinner
April 22, 2014
Citizen Hotel, Sacramento

Thank you so much for this award. It means a lot to me to be recognized by an organization and individuals whom I respect and have played such an important role in the progressive community, fighting for economic and social justice.

While I am honored to receive this award, I believe it truly recognizes the work we all played in the fight for the Millionaires Tax and the effort to convince Governor Brown that a merged measure was in the best interest of all Californians. It is my firm conviction that without our work to support the Millionaires Tax, Proposition 30 would not have been as strong a measure and that it would not have been successful.

The work on the Millionaires Tax and Prop 30. was a collective effort. On the CFT side, Jeff Freitas our Secretary Treasurer, our leadership, staff and our members were very clear that we had to make a fight for more funding and that wealthy Californians had to pay more.

The involvement and leadership of our community partners was also key to this victory. Early on, the CFT understood that this could not be a union only effort. Maybe that realization was borne out of the knowledge that the CFT does have the resources of some other unions and that if we are to move a progressive agenda in California it must be done in coalition with labor and community.

That coalition began to emerge in the spring of 2011 on the heels of a CFT funded poll to gauge the public’s support for raising taxes an additional 1% on the top 1% of income earners. That polling indicated there was overwhelming public support for raising taxes on the rich and that helped solidify the work to create a progressive tax measure.

In particular, I want to acknowledge the work of Rick Jacobs and the Courage Campaign and Anthony Thigpenn and California Calls. Rick and Anthony and then Amy Schur from ACCE were instrumental in helping navigate the difficult terrain of the Millionaires Tax and then making sure that the Reclaim California’s Future coalition, which we had created, continued to be an official part of the Prop. 30 campaign.

The results, as we all know, have been dramatic. After years of devastating budget cuts, California has begun to restore funding for education and public services and the dire predication coming from the opponents of Prop. 30 that its adoption would lead to an exodus of rich people did not pan out. California is a great place to live and asking the wealthiest Californians to pay a bit more in taxes has made the state better for all.

Of course much more needs to be done and many of us in this room are currently working on an effort to amend Proposition 13 and put it before the voters in 2016. That will be a very difficult struggle, but if we are serious about reforming and improving public education, rebuilding our roads, bridges and highways, improving vital services for our neediest residents, then we have to take on Prop. 13.

I also want to raise an issue that continues to threaten the likelihood of success on reforming Prop 13 and moving a progressive agenda in California and nationally.

In this period of declining union membership, the last sector of the economy that is still well organized and capable of playing a decisive role in elections are the public sector unions and education unions in particular. Unfortunately the current attack on teacher rights has used the language of the civil rights movement and the real problems of economic disparity to argue that the answer to the problems of public education are best solved by pushing market reforms. If these market reforms are successful, they will create greater disparity among our students and weaken the power of education unions to move a progressive agenda.

We see this in the Vergara lawsuit, creating a fast track for students willing to pay higher fees in community colleges, endless testing, promoting merit pay, eliminating seniority and due process, promoting non-union charter schools. All these reforms have at their core the notion that the competition of the market place will improve the performance of teachers and students.

The history of working people and communities of color tell us a very different story, however. Without restraints, the market place rewards a few and creates greater inequality and disparity.

Unfortunately we see a growing number of friends and organizations not only buying in to the ideas promoted by the market reformers but also influenced by the dollars the billionaires and corporations can offer.

Those of us involved in education know what needs to be done. It’s not a mystery. We spend out lives in the classroom; we see what works and we spend lots of time reading, discussing and thinking about how to make our teaching more effective.

But when social services are cut, unemployment and underemployment is on the rise, the single minded focus on the classroom and the school site must be viewed as a massive diversion from taking on the issues of poverty and wealth-the real issues that shape academic success.

Unfortunately, we in the education union world have not done a very good job of engaging the public on these issues and explaining patiently what works and what doesn’t and why worker rights are not counter posed to the rights of students.

In the CFT we are working on a long-term campaign for quality public education that sees working with our members, our parents, students and community partners in a bottom up dialogue about what is needed in our schools and classrooms and how we can together build a vision for quality public education and then fight for it.

As part of that effort the CFT has launched a legislative effort AB 1955, called Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds to put a full-time nurse and mental health professional in every school and to make sure school libraries are open before and after school.

We believe this is the kind of effort that has at its core the notion that our students, our children, are not simply widgets to be measured but are human beings to be nurtured and that begins in our schools.

We hope we can count on you for your support and thank you again Courage Campaign.

 

Leadership Conference inspires attendees

The annual CFT Leadership Conference held February 6-7 was jam-packed with learning opportunities for union leaders and staffers. In one panel discussion, domestic workers and their dedication to winning a Bill of Rights in the California Legislature last year inspired attendees.

See more pictures from the conference in this facebook photo album.

The importance of adult education and including adult educators in the consultation process

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Testimony of CFT Secretary Treasurer Jeff Freitas before the Senate Education and Assembly Higher Education Committees

January 29, 2014

Thank you Senator Liu, Assemblymember Williams and the committee members.

My name is Jeff Freitas and I am the Secretary Treasurer of the California Federation
of Teachers.

CFT represents early childhood educators, K-12 teachers, classified employees,
community college faculty, UC lecturers and librarians, and adult educators in the K-12
and community college worlds.

I want to thank Senator Liu specifically for providing me the opportunity to present on
behalf of the more than 100,000 school employees that we represent, and to thank both
chairs for having a joint hearing specifically on adult education.

Since the time that the adult education categoricals were flexed for K-12 school
districts, adult education programs across the state have been decimated in many
communities. With the re-visioning of community college missions (as can be seen by
the ever heavy hand of the ACCJC in San Francisco) adult education opportunities are
narrowed again but from a different system.

We absolutely disagree with the LAO that we should narrow the mission or goals of
Adult Education. Saying it is too much for the state is just more austerity rhetoric and
does not meet the needs of all community members — all taxpayers.

From this budget tightening in the past, Gov. Brown, from my analysis, has created a
possible solution to provide Adult Education its own system so it is not pitted against
the goals of either K-12 schools or community colleges. Hence, AB86 was passed and
signed into law. AB86 called for a state cabinet with appointments by the State
Superintendent of Public Schools and Chancellor of the Community Colleges, state
working group, and regional consortia.

Interesting enough, the governor also pushed forward an idea of broad stakeholder
engagement in creating plans and goals for the K-12 system through the Local Control
Funding Formula and the Local Control Accountability Plan.

I link these two system changes to funding and functioning because they should spell
out the interest of the governor and intent of AB86 to include all stakeholders.
The LCAP provides a model that should be applied immediately to the planning
process for the future of Adult Education. Regional consortia should consult with all
stakeholders before creation of regional plans not after, and important stakeholders
must be included in the AB86 leadership bodies not just the regional consortia.

The intent, we believe, has not been put into practice. Teachers, faculty, school
employees actually working with the adults being educated have been excluded from
these planning and working groups. This is a serious flaw.

I received an email from a leader that teaches Adult Education at a community college
where the faculty senate appointed her and five others to be part of the consortium,
however the administrators excluded half the group and only kept the department chairs
for the early meetings. Other places teachers and faculty are only brought in after
decisions have been made or at the point when non-district organizations are included.
This is a blatant exclusion of stakeholders. And these are just a few of many examples.

Seeing that I am the first person to speak at this hearing on behalf of the actual adult
educators, I would like to share three concerns that you should seriously consider.

1. The inclusion of actual teachers and bargaining unit representatives at every
level of the consultation process.
2. The prevention of paring down or eliminating broad education opportunities
for all segments of these communities, specifically Older Adult and non-credit
adult education classes. We can and must do more not less for our
communities.
3. And finally, that public dollars must be used for public education and
controlled by public agencies.

Voices have been excluded from the process and we fear that further damage will occur
to these communities because of the lack of these voices, our voices. And we hope you
will work to protect the opportunities that are provided by this endangered education
system.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Jeffery M. Freitas
CFT Secretary Treasurer

Additional Resources:

VIDEO: CFT testifies on adult education (go to 02:03:25)

Read about AB86 in California Teacher

The CFT wishes you a restful holiday season

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The officers and the staff of the California Federation of Teachers wish you a restful holiday season that brings joy with loved ones and a new year filled with the possibility of reclaiming the promise of public education.

CFT mourns loss of Nelson Mandela

mandela2The members and staff of the California Federation Teachers share with the world community the profound loss of Nelson Mandela. His lifelong commitment to social, economic and political equality for all South Africans ignited a worldwide movement that continues to inspire all those who seek justice. Mr. Mandela also embodied the best in a revolutionary leader who understood that the ability to transform individuals and a society rests in the power of people to act collectively. We are privileged to have shared in his struggles and victories.

"Mandela’s Death Stirs Sense of Loss Around the World," New York Times, December 5, 2013

 

Former CFT President Raoul Teilhet dies

Black and white photo of Teilhet on a bullhorn

Teilhet at Diablo Valley rally before collective bargaining.

Read a full obituary, view video, and hear his oral history.

It is with deep sorrow that the California Federation of Teachers announces the passing of former CFT president Raoul Teilhet.

Raoul Teilhet, a Pasadena high school history teacher who believed collective bargaining offered the path to dignity and respect for public school employees before laws existed allowing it, and served as president of the California Federation of Teachers in successful pursuit of that goal, died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease on June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 79.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said, “Raoul Teilhet was a creative leader. I had the pleasure of spending many long evenings with him solving education problems and discussing how we could make California and its schools better for everyone. I’ll miss him.”

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