By Fernando Navarro
Last week I was “taken to task” by a member of the Antioch Education Association (AEA), the local teachers’ union, for voting against a resolution supporting passage of Proposition 55. What does Proposition 55 do? It extends for another 12 years what was promised to be a temporary income tax increase targeting ‘high-income’ Californians. While the commercials hitting the airways, and the statement made by my protagonist at our last board meeting, claim it will benefit our kids, the passage of the measure will really benefit the teachers’ union…to the detriment of our kids. That’s why I stand firm in my vote against the resolution supporting it.
The California Teachers Association (CTA) is pumping millions of dollars into support of the passage of Proposition 55. Over half of state revenues already go to education…but to the powerful CTA, and local teachers’ unions, that will never be enough. They will always want more…dissatisfied with the step wage increases built into their salary tables, they want additional raises and additional benefits…which of course means more money into union coffers.
The problems in our schools are not because of a lack of funding. They exist because of failed policies, backed by the CTA, AEA, and others. Just last month, the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune explained in an op-ed article why providing additional revenues to schools amounts to continuing to shore up a failed, ‘status-quo.’ It amounts to continued support for extreme job protection policies that make it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers. It amounts to the continued failure to educate our poorest, most vulnerable students, and ensures the achievement gap that exists for students of color will continue.
Indeed, if money were the answer, the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) would be a beacon for students. AUSD receives almost a quarter of a billion dollars to educate the approximately 16,000 students in the district. Over the three school years 2012-2013 to 2014-2015 alone, according to Ed-Data, General Fund revenues increased from $131 million to $162 million, at a time when the student population was decreasing.
This amounted to a jump from $7638 per student (based on average daily attendance) to $9600 per student…an increase of 24%! What have we gotten in return? The percentage of students graduating ready to attend a California State school increased from 31.6% to 32.2%…virtually no change. The statistics are even worse for our most vulnerable students. The percentage of English Language Learner students reclassified as Fluent/Proficient actually dropped over this time, from an already poor 9.8% to an absolutely dismal 7.3%. Currently, only 10% of African-American students test even basically proficient in math.
Don’t be fooled. This measure is a classic ‘bait and switch.’ The education system in California is broken, in no small part because of policies backed by powerful union interests that are about their members…not your children. I’ll be voting ‘no’ on Proposition 55.
Navarro is an Appointed Trustee on the Antioch School Board and is running for a full-term in the November election.