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Analysis: The CTA really wants the split-roll property tax initiative on the ballot. Union members don’t seem so enthused

Mike Antonucci | January 22, 2020

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

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The California Teachers Association has made the passage of a split-roll property tax initiative its top priority for 2020, allocating an initial investment of $6 million for the campaign. But three months into signature-gathering to place the measure on the November ballot, the union is having a difficult time elevating its members to the same level of enthusiasm.

The Schools and Communities First campaign has set a goal of 1.6 million signatures by the March 4 filing deadline. The plan was to have volunteers, particularly union members, collect 450,000 signatures, while signature-gathering firms made up the difference. Each union involved with the campaign was given a quota, and CTA’s is 150,000 signatures.

The overall collection rate has been steady. The campaign reached 250,000 signatures after about a month, and 500,000 after about two months. The latest information I have states the campaign has reached 745,000 signatures.

To make its goal, the campaign will have to ramp up its efforts over the final six weeks. The main reason is that volunteers have failed to keep pace with the paid signature gatherers.

According to multiple CTA sources, volunteers overall collected only 60,000 signatures, or 13 percent of their quota, by the end of 2019. CTA’s performance was even worse, with the teachers union managing to turn in only 17,000 signatures, or 11 percent of its quota. In an internal memo, one CTA official said the union’s efforts were falling “woefully short” of its goal.

CTA is calling on its activists to “move into overdrive” as the deadline approaches, so teachers across the state and their friends can expect to be bombarded with requests to sign petitions.

It’s virtually certain that when all is said and done, the initiative will have enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but it’s just as certain that it will be due to the work of paid signature gatherers, who are ahead of pace.

The campaign also benefited from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill that would have made it a misdemeanor to pay signature gatherers based on the number of signatures they collected. With the bounty system still in place, CTA and its allies can buy what they need. However, it will mean the campaign will have spent precious funds that will be unavailable when the opposition tools up.

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