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Antonucci: California Teachers Association’s strategic plan — how’s it doing?

Mike Antonucci | June 4, 2019

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

Back in 2014, the California Teachers Association generated a long-term strategic plan. Titled “Our Union, Our Future,” it described eight broad goals, including community engagement and coalition building, organizing unrepresented education workers and “transforming our profession.”

In April, CTA assembled a working group of union officers, representatives and staff to assess the progress the union has made in implementing its strategic plan over the last five years. It presented the results to the union’s board of directors in an 18-page report.

You can read the entire report here, but I want to highlight those portions that have more than just a pure parochial interest to union insiders. We also have to allow for the standard amount of self-congratulation that often accompanies union analysis of its own practices.

The working group did note that progress on the union’s goals was “uneven,” blaming this on “the attacks on public education” and the loss of agency fees. However, “CTA responded powerfully against each of these threats and at the end of the five-year period emerged as a stronger, more connected, more diverse and vibrant union,” the report states.

Among its successes CTA lists exposing “school privatizers and Right to Work” and the “agenda of billionaires in supporting corporate charter schools and those who fund anti-education candidates and initiatives.” The union celebrated its political campaign and charter organizing victories, but was most proud that “the public perception of teachers, teachers’ unions, and unions in general, has improved” because “we have changed the narrative from ‘teachers care about salaries’ to ‘teachers care about kids.’”

The report noted that CTA had a net increase of members in 2018. Other internal CTA documents corroborate this claim, with membership up about 3,300 at the end of the year. CTA did note that it lost $8 million in revenue when the Supreme Court banned agency fees for public employee unions. Other internal CTA documents show the union lost revenue from more than 24,000 former fee-payers who declined to join as full members.

Despite the good news, CTA sees trouble on the horizon. “Even with the new funding initiatives, there is still insufficient revenue to provide high quality education for all,” the report states.

CTA also worries that “many of our members still don’t see the threats that are facing us.” The working group mentioned problems with local affiliates working in “silos,” with collaboration limited to times of crisis.

If the working group had one overarching criticism it was that CTA’s structure and governance lacked the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and goals. “This remains a stumbling block for CTA’s continued success,” the report states.

The group was asked what new issues CTA would have to address in the future. Among their responses:

• develop a position/strategy on dual enrollment

• member retention strategies

• work in coordination with other labor unions to develop a health care system

• longer-term school funding (5-10 years)

• pension issues.

One respondent noted: “Enemies are planning their long game – we need a long game (Justices, negative stories regarding educators, schools…).”

Now more than ever, California remains the Golden State for teacher unions, but CTA still faces resistance to some parts of its agenda. The eternal battle over the state’s education policy involves not just two sides, but two different approaches. Will long-term strategic plans win out, or tactical maneuverability? A lot rides on how it plays out.

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