California Educator

February/March 2024

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I N A N E X T R A O R D I N A R Y Y E A R for labor, California's teachers have been at the center of a revitalized movement that has successfully demanded better working conditions, family-supporting wages, and a seat at the table for import- ant educational decisions. The toll taken by the COVID-19 pandemic, the stress of working in an increasingly strained education system, persistent state underfunding, and inad- equate salaries and staffing have all invigorated teachers' unions to fight for their members and students. In December, the Legislative Analyst's Office issued a stark estimate of the state's fiscal situation heading into 2024–25, which means teachers will once again need to fight alongside families and students to stave off huge cuts in K–12 funding. This fall, tens of thousands of teachers and school workers in Fresno and San Francisco won significant wage increases and more resources for their students. Both unions voted overwhelmingly to strike, but settled their contracts with- out walking out. These contract wins come on the heels of an Oakland teachers' strike and Los Angeles educators' solidarity strike with school workers last year and a Sacra- mento educator strike in 2022. Pre-pandemic strikes by Los Angeles and Oakland teachers that began the wave in 2019 included big wins for students, school staff and the broader community. Instructors at the California State University sys- tem went on strike in January for similar reasons. Teachers' willingness to strike represents not just a resur- gence of union power, but also their determination to call attention to the dire consequences of decades of California's underinvestment in K–12 education. The debate over K–12 education often frames school budgets as a zero-sum choice between teacher pay, student needs and fiscal solvency. But this is a false tradeoff — the challenges facing California's education workforce and its students have been fueled by the state's persistently inadequate funding. The damage done by Proposition 13 property tax reform over the last 45 years has never been overcome — changes to the state's formula for funding education have simply redistributed a pie that is too small. As federal pandemic stimulus money runs out and state revenues decline precipitously, the structural inadequacy of California education funding is again jeopardizing the state's students. Districts — which must adopt three-year budgets More than 3,400 Fresno Teachers Association members packed the Fresno Fairgrounds at an October rally opening their strike vote. We Must Invest in Education California's teachers are fighting for better schools By Sara Hinkley 40 Advocacy

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