2014 AFT Convention Speech

July 14,2014

Good morning convention delegates,

My name is Joshua Pechthalt and I am honored to be the president of one of the most progressive unions in the California labor movement, the California Federation of Teachers, representing more than 100K education workers from early childhood through higher education.

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Three Head Shaking Decisions from the Supreme Court Threaten Our Progress

July 2, 2014

The attacks on our rights as union workers just keep coming.

First it was last month’s ruling in Vergara v. California claiming that teacher due process laws violate the state’s constitution. Now the United States Supreme Court is getting in on the act.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Quinn v. Harris limiting unions in Illinois representing home health care workers from collecting agency fees is another in a string of reactionary judicial rulings targeting workers, women, communities of color and the environment.

While the ruling in Quinn is narrow, it is nonetheless a shot across the bow of labor unions around the country. Having all employees who benefit from union representation -- such as collective bargaining and representation for grievances -- pay agency fees even if they choose not to become full members of the union is only fair.

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A Good Budget, But More Needed for Struggling Families

June 17, 2014

Overall, there’s plenty to like in the 2014-2015 state budget passed recently by the California legislature, including funding for early childhood education, career and technical education programs for high schools, additional money for K-12 through the Local Control Funding Formula and more money for higher education.

Putting a limit on K-12 district budget reserves is also a wise decision. Now districts won’t simply hoard reserves, but will put more resources into the classroom to help kids, restore programs, rehire educators and support staff and begin to recoup years of pay cuts and furlough days.

The state’s improved finances this budget cycle, and not coincidentally the higher approval rating for the Governor and state legislators, is largely due to the adoption of Prop 30 and the public’s willingness to tax higher income earners to fund state services.

But in spite of the rosier economic outlook, 30 years of defunding and the recent draconian budget cuts due to the Great Recession have devastated our schools and punished our children and students. California schools rank at or near the national bottom in per pupil spending, class size average and number of librarians, nurses and counselors. As the wealthiest state in the nation and the 8th largest economy in the world, our children have a right to expect better.

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Statement on the Vergara v. California ruling

June 10, 2014

As educators committed to ensuring the best education possible for our students, we are deeply troubled by this court ruling. This decision is predicated on the notion that firing teachers is the way to achieve academic excellence and ending inequality in our schools. If this were the case, then those states where seniority and due process rights don’t exist for teachers would be models of academic achievement and equity and yet the plaintiffs would be hard pressed to make that case.

We know what works in our schools. It is no mystery. There are schools and districts where teachers work collaboratively, where teachers and administrators work together and where struggling teachers get the help they need to improve. 

Unfortunately this court case and decision, funded by wealthy individuals, adds to the anti-teacher and anti-teacher union narrative popular among those forces looking to get their hands on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually on public education. Their agenda has not resonated with parents and the public who understand that teachers are one element among many shaping academic performance.

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May 14, 2014

It’s Raining Now, Governor Brown

Let’s balance the responsibility to the future with responsibility to people now

Governor Jerry Brown,

You’ve been a responsible guardian of the state’s financial resources, and the healthy condition of the budget today reflects your strong focus on careful management of the taxpayers’ money.

However, in seeking a balance between fiscal responsibility and the needs of the people of California, you and the legislature have leaned too far in the direction of so-called “prudence.” Revenues are up in May more than $2 billion beyond your January budget projections. Thanks largely to the revenues brought in by Proposition 30, the state has helped school districts to avoid the layoffs and program reductions so typical of previous several years.

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CFT President Pechthalt to Representatives Pelosi, Speier, and Eschoo:  Thank you for critique of ACCJC

May 29, 2014

Representative Nancy Pelosi

12th Congressional District
90 7th Street, Suite 2-800
San Francisco, CA 94103

Honorable Jackie Speier
14th Congressional District
155 Bovet Road, Suite 780
San Mateo, CA 94402


Honorable Anna Eshoo
18th Congressional District
698 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Dear Congresswomen Pelosi, Speier and Eshoo:

I am writing in regards to the May 27, 2014 letter to you from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) wherein the ACCJC attempts to “explain” (sic) why it:

cannot rescind its decision and provide CCSF with an additional period of time to come into compliance while maintaining its accreditation, within the time limits set forth in federal regulations...

Riddled with inaccuracies and untruths, this latest missive from the ACCJC would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so incredibly high. By continuing down the path of illegally disaccrediting City College of San Francisco (CCSF), the ACCJC is needlessly placing in jeopardy the education and futures of well over 80,000 students. There is another way.

You know from the US Department of Education’s (US DoE) various public communications, confirmed through the CFT’s own extensive research of the last two years, as well as our numerous communications with the Department officials, that the ACCJC can without question continue CCSF’s accreditation beyond July 31, 2014. 

At its upcoming commission meeting June 4th — 6th ACCJC should rescind termination of CCSF’s accreditation and immediately establish a new team to update its review.

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