Muscling up to take on Arnold
If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was looking for a fight to test his political muscle and the depth of his popularity, there are few opponents who could test it as well as the education community. To be sure, the powerhouse among that community is the California Teachers Association, but there are others. The California Federation of Teachers is another sizable union (which largely represents community college instructors), and on the issue of education funding the teachers' groups are joined by administrators, school board members and the PTA.
If you were constucting a political machine, you couldn't do any better than to to establish operations in every residential neighborhood in the state and enlist 20, 30 or more supporters at each site who mostly are respected professionals who have regular contact with every parent in the neighborhood. If the education community decides to spread the word that Schwarzenegger's budget and ballot proposals are very bad for schools, it has the infrastructure to do it.
This week, CTA President Barbara Kerr said that all options are open to counter Schwarzenegger's budget proposals -- including the possibility of a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of state education funding and an initiative that would strengthen the state Constitution's school-funding guarantee.
Today, CFT President Mary Bergan offered a more direct challenge. Meeting with reporters, Bergan said: "One of the things that got people in trouble last year is that people just assumed he was so wildly popular you couldn't beat him. He is a good p.r. guy...
"I think he can be beat. He picked the wrong target this time. Especially from a man who's taken millions of dollars from groups that most folks would consider special interests. I think that makes him vulnerable."