“Nothing is more determinative of our future than how we teach our children,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said in his January State of the State address. “If we fail at this, we will sow growing social chaos and inequality that no law can rectify.”
Bad news, governor: California is already failing its children. And it wasn’t always this way.
According to RAND Corp., as late as the 1970s California’s public schools still had an “excellent” reputation. Then, in 1975, Brown (in his first stint as California’s governor) signed the Rodda Act, giving government unions the power to take money directly out of government employees’ paychecks.
The California Teachers Association quickly poured this new revenue stream into an organizing drive, more than doubling the union’s ranks. The Golden State’s politics have never been the same since — nor has the quality of its public schools. Between 2000 and 2010, the CTA spent more than $211 million to influence California voters and elected officials. That is more money than the oil, tobacco and hospital industries combined.
The CTA’s first big political victory came in 1988, when it helped pass Proposition 98, which amended the California Constitution to mandate that at least 39 percent of the state budget be spent on K-12 education spending. Since then, California teacher salaries have skyrocketed and are now among the highest in the nation (only Massachusetts and New York pay more).