Saturday, May 14, 2011

Assessing the CTA's "State of Emergency" Week

Yesterday was the final day of the California Teachers' Association's weeklong protests across the state. It cultimated in a rally of more than a thousand teachers, students, and bureaucrats on the south lawn of the Capitol in Sacramento, after which CTA president David Sanchez and others were arrested for refusing to leave the building after it closed. Large demonstrations also took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Bernardino. Enough ink has already been spilled over the protests, but we wonder whether anyone will say they worked.

We're sure the unions will say they raised public awareness of the issue of education cuts, but honestly: what are the chances that anyone paying attention to the protests wasn't already aware of the teachers' concerns about the budget? And they'll probably say that they changed the minds of legislators with the power to avert cuts by imposing tax extensions. But is that really true? The Democrats who hold office because of unions like the CTA undoubtedly enjoyed the show this week, but the teachers need Republicans to get their tax extensions to the voters. And though you usually win more friends with honey than vinegar, the teachers spent the week ripping those same GOP lawmakers to shreds in the press. They may even claim they made their case with the public regarding the need for tax extensions. Yet here they confront the reality that the California GOP may have stolen their thunder by proposing Thursday to balance the budget without higher taxes or cuts to education. Not to mention recent poll data suggesting that they have a long way to go in convincing the public to back tax extensions.

So, in short, we may be wrong, but right now we'll guess that the teachers' week of protests, rather than constituting a turning point in the state's budget battle, will go down as sound and fury signifying nothing.


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