Out of Control Policy Blog

California Teachers Association $212 Million Political Spending Spree

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert reports that the California Teacher's Association is the number one political spender in the state of California.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission released a report titled “Big Money Talks” that revealed the California Teachers Association was the largest political spender in the state over the last decade, spending more than $200 million on ballot initiatives, candidates for state and local office, and lobbying.

The $211.9 million spent by the CTA is nearly twice as much as the $107.5 million committed by the second-highest spender, the California State Council of Service Employees.

At Townhall.com Meredith Turney points out that this political spending wasn't just about education. Some excerpts:
  • And if there were any doubt about the political party with whom the CTA most identifies, their $6.5 million dollar donation—the largest donation to any political party from the special interest groups—clearly signifies the union’s commitment to the Democrat Party.
  • CTA co-sponsoring Senate Bill 810, which would implement a single-payer government-run healthcare system in California. The CTA lobbied against a Republican-sponsored healthcare reform measure that would have provided greater competition in health insurance by allowing out-of-state carriers to sell plans in California
  • Even more telling than the legislation it supports, is the legislation the CTA opposes, including Senate Bill 370, which would have prevented voter fraud through voter identification requirements.

As the Education Intelligence Agency reports the commission is unusually blunt about the effect this money has on the political process in California:

California’s Top 15 special interest groups often win by spending money to defeat ballot measures — which has the effect of maintaining the status quo. Their willingness to spend vast sums of money gives them the ability not just to drown out others, but to exercise powerful political leverage. By spending huge amounts of money, they send an unmistakable message to political opponents and elected officials alike: “We’re ready, willing, and able to spend millions — you don’t want to fight us.” What is good for the people of California matters less than what hurts or helps the individual interests of these groups.

In my personal experience the unions literally drown out other voices and this means even the most marginal education reforms never make it out of education committee. I have testified in the assembly education committee on bills such as allowing school districts to utilize more outsourcing for non instructional services to save money during tight budgets or to allow universities to authorize charter schools to improve charter school accountability and had the experience of the union "witnesses" completely surrounding the microphones so that other speakers cannot answer the committee's questions about a piece of education legislation.
The unions engage in political spending on issues that have little to do with education or directly benefiting their members and their political spending is used again and again to block legitimate discourse about education reform in California.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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