After an often difficult 2017, 2018 couldn’t get here fast enough. Wildfires devastated much of the state; some of us lost friends, colleagues or loved ones in the terrible Las Vegas shooting; the #MeToo movement revealed how widespread sexual harassment and outright assault are in workplaces and elsewhere; Washington became more chaotic and dysfunctional than usual; and Dreamers, many of whom are our students, spent the year in a state of deep anxiety.
But we also saw communities come together to care for their own, offering up funds and household goods to those displaced by wildfires, and protesting the intolerable situation Dreamers and their families have found themselves in.
Educators were at the forefront of these actions. In communities such as Rancho Tehama, where yet another gunman wreaked havoc, educators put themselves between the shooter and their students. I know this doesn’t surprise you — it doesn’t surprise me either. But I am filled with pride when I hear of these teachers and others who risk so much so that their students can have a better future.
That’s exactly why many educators are taking to the streets on behalf of public education and social justice issues.
2018 began with the inspiring action of thousands of CTA members and educators across the country as they donned pink caps and raised signs in the second annual Women’s Marches. CTA’s January State Council meeting coincided with the Los Angeles march, and I was thrilled to take time out from our work to join CTA delegates and about 600,000 others on LA streets as we pushed for social and political changes. With women making up about 75 percent of California’s teaching force, it was powerful to see so many strong women coalescing into a political force.
Now, more than ever, we need pro-public education candidates who will join us as we stand up to the school privatizers and anyone who puts profits before kids.”
The action in the streets must translate to action at the ballot box. We need to elect leaders who will get this country back on track. This year Californians will vote for a new governor, a new superintendent of public instruction, new state legislators, and new school boards. CTA members have interviewed the candidates, evaluated their records, and identified shared values before making recommendations in statewide races. Now, more than ever, we need pro-public education candidates who will join us as we stand up to the school privatizers and anyone who puts profits before kids. I know that Tony Thurmond will do just that as our next superintendent of public instruction, as will Gavin Newsom as our next governor. (For CTA candidate recommendations and campaign information, go to campaign2018cta.org.)
We will need help from leaders who believe in a strong middle class. Public employee union members across the country are facing a political challenge of a different kind, as the Supreme Court hears arguments this month in Janus v. AFSCME, a well-funded attempt to further rig the system in favor of the wealthiest in America, not the rest of us.
But even if they succeed in winning that case designed to decimate unions, CTA isn’t going anywhere. We are firmly planted in the foundation of this state. For 155 years our members have been at the forefront of every major improvement to public education in California.
CTA chapters are stronger than ever, and CTA members are getting involved in record numbers, spurred to action by the current political climate and other challenges. We’r seeing the fulfillment of CTA’s long-term strategic plan, adopted over four years ago, which made statewide and local member engagement a top priority. It’s exciting to see that come to fruition in so many local CTA chapters in so many ways.
With our collective action, our commitment to students, and our passion for the work we do, the future of public education in 2018 is in good hands.
Eric C. Heins