SACRAMENTO, CALIF.—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten today criticized a proposal backed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would gut the due process rights of the state’s teachers but would do nothing to prevent devastating education cuts and massive teacher layoffs.
Her testimony in front of the state Senate’s Education Committee came hours before she was to join the final leg of the March for California’s Future and a massive rally at the state Capitol to call for adequate funding of public education and other essential services, and for reform of the legislative budget process.
At the morning hearing on S.B. 955, Weingarten said the bill, which would strip educators of long-standing rights to fairness, is simply a move by the governor and others “to obfuscate and abdicate their own responsibility to lessen the blow of the recession on students. They are focused on who gets laid off first, and not on strategies to avert layoffs and draconian classroom cuts.”
The bill, Weingarten added in testimony submitted to the committee, “may satiate the appetite of those thirsting for ideological fodder, but it does nothing to expand and enhance every child’s opportunity in the midst of these tough economic times.”
Weingarten said California leaders instead should be working for real reform here, and supporting congressional efforts in Washington to provide desperately needed funding to help avert massive layoffs and programmatic cuts. “The governor, in general, by supporting S.B. 955, is attempting to divert the public’s attention from his own fiscal and policy failures by using a ‘blame the teachers’ approach. Californians are too smart to stand for this,” the AFT president said.
“Rather than legislating to eliminate the rights of teachers, this body should focus instead on helping to create and implement teacher development and evaluation systems that attract, support and retain the very best teachers while helping to improve their practice,” Weingarten said.
S.B. 955, Weingarten added, “does nothing more than strip teachers of any voice and any ability to advocate for the tools and conditions they need to be successful.”
The AFT president was to join thousands of others to walk the final mile of the 365-mile March for California’s Future, which started in Bakersfield, Calif. The march was organized by the California Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate.
“The federal government wouldn’t let Wall Street or the automobile companies fail, and we shouldn’t let our public schools fail. Unless there’s an immediate infusion of funding, states will be forced to make draconian budget cuts. We cannot let that happen to our kids,” Weingarten said.
Weingarten was in Sacramento as part of the AFT’s Fight for America’s Future tour. She is visiting cities around the country to draw attention to the problems that state and local governments and school districts are facing in dealing with the fiscal crisis. She is calling for support of a federal jobs bill—such as the Local Jobs for America Act in the House, or the Keep Our Educators Working Act in the Senate—to avoid massive layoffs of teachers. More information on the tour is available at www.aft.org/fight4america/.