- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The state school union in California, the nation’s largest, has refinanced its headquarters building near San Francisco to fund its more than $54 million campaign against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Nov. 8 ballot initiatives on teacher tenure and “paycheck protection” for union members.

The refinancing allows the 335,000-member California Teachers Association (CTA) to receive an immediate bank advance on $60.3 million in increased union member dues over the next three years.

The CTA’s 800-member state council voted in June to increase members’ annual union dues $60 for each of the next three years to pay for its statewide anti-Schwarzenegger TV and radio ad campaign, which started in March, and a get-out-the-vote drive to defeat the ballot initiatives.

Barbara Kerr, president of the state teachers union, said the mortgage allowed the CTA to borrow against the additional revenues from the dues increase and spend as much as necessary to defeat Mr. Schwarzenegger’s agenda.

The governor is pushing a ballot with three propositions: Nos. 74, 75 and 76.

Proposition 74 would increase the probationary period for new teachers from two to five years before they receive tenure, and modify the process by which school boards can dismiss teachers.

The so-called “paycheck protection” — Proposition 75 — prohibits use of public-employee union dues for political contributions without prior consent of individual union members.

Proposition 76 limits state spending to the prior year’s level plus three previous years’ average revenue growth. It also permits the governor, under specified circumstances, to reduce budget appropriations of the governor’s choosing.

“The governor’s special election [in November] impacts public schools, it impacts our teachers, it impacts our students, and it impacts nurses, firefighters, public employees, and goes against everything we stand for,” Mrs. Kerr told the Sacramento Bee.

Polls show that 61 percent of likely voters in California approve of the measure to lengthen teacher probation, and 32 percent oppose it. Also among likely voters, 57 percent approve of the measure to require prior union member consent for political use of dues, and 34 percent oppose it.

Many teachers are backing the initiatives.

“Tenure is an embarrassment,” said Lawrence Sand, an eighth-grade history teacher and National Education Association (NEA) member in Los Angeles. “In reality, a 23-year-old who has been teaching in California for two years and gets tenure has just received a lifetime position. Is there any other type of employee on this planet who has such a deal?”

Mr. Sand said the paycheck-protection initiative is aimed at “defanging” liberal Democrats, whose political activities and union contributions are opposed by about two-thirds of NEA members nationwide.

“Where paycheck protection has been voted in, the union’s coffers have taken a serious hit,” he said. “Although the NEA’s rank and file is very mixed politically, their political spending tilts left about 90 degrees. This must come to an end.”

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