Sunday, November 22, 2009

CA State Education Budget Cuts and the Governor's Race

The recent upsurge of student strikes and rallies surrounding the CA budget cuts and education cutbacks are significant in their scale and scope. Our task as Greens is to focus their political impact and develop campaign strategies, such as the one in Orange County that increased voter support for Greens. The election of Dana Silvernale to the Northern Humboldt Union High School Board is a significant accomplishment and an indicator of our viability as a political and electoral option.

These issues raise the immedicacy of a viable Green candidate in the next Governor's election.

"Protests and occupations have taken place at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, CSU Fresno, San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. Students have occupied Campbell Hall at UCLA, Kresge Town Hall and Kerr Hall at UC Santa Cruz, Mrak Hall and Dutton Hall at UC Davis, Wheeler Hall at UCB, and the library at CSU Fresno."
Occupations of administration buildings are increasing at various state universities throughout the state. But even here tactics have taken precedence over strategy. Arrests are considerably less then prior actions as university adminitrators are clearly avoiding the polarization of such arrests and may see some advantage to prolonging them in regards to getting the funds back.

Teachers' unions are clearly developing their own strategies. The LA teachers union is backing an action in March. This could catch on given the extent of the cuts. The current tactics of opposing the budget have been weak on issues such as royalties on oil companies. Clearly there is a base of support among teachers and families for a Green alternative for Governor to address the budget issues..

Mass actions are needed and build popular awareness, but from all appearances they have been anticipated consequences of the budget agreement. To date they have not appeared to have a significant impact on the political processes that they are meant to influence. But, more public officials and various groups are beginning to address the budget issues. While the regents have become the target, the lack of funds from the state has clearly presented them with narrowed options. They might even support the actions as leverage for getting the funds back. Support from employee unions have been evident from the beginning but even there the employee turnouts in the recent "strikes" appear minimal. This may be influenced by the fact that 1/3 of university employees are part-timers.

The budget has been locked in place for years as a result of Props 13, 218 and various referenda passed over the years and the 2/3 vote requirement in the legislature. California can anticipate a $21 billion deficit even with the current draconian measures, State revenues are declining because of the economy and the source of new revenues include an additional 10% state extraction of incomes until income taxes are filed.

Greens have seen some impact in votes in Orange County and Fairfax, but internal disorganization remains rampant
within the Green Party throughout the state. If we are to have any influence this needs to change. Greens need to structure county organization in more effective ways and prioritize recruitment of candidates and selecting critical campaigns. K-12 and the entire system of the University of California and Cal State campuses have been impacted. Locally, public education funding need to be incorporated into our campaigns.

How do we avoid trying to run from one issue to another and ground our campaigns in the profound economic and environmental crises confronting our state? One way is for Greens to run for office. The election of Dana Silvernale is proof that we can win and we can build campaigns in school boards that address the fundamental issues confronting public education. Candidates are coming forward but we are still behind in establishing a real alternative in such campaigns throughout the state.

The Governor's race would be a highly visible effort for the party to engage in to make the most significant impact on the Green Party's relevance in the water agreement and the education cuts. Candidates for Governor need to be vetted and recruited to establish our credibility in opposing the water bond and the education budget cutback.

One water wonk and one ex-School official, or former Mayor or city supervisor, and we can establish a presence in the Governor's race with effectiveness.
Is anyone out there listening?

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