The California Fair Political Practices Commission released a report last week detailing the fifteen most influential special interest groups in the state. Over the course of the last ten years, these fifteen groups—consisting of unions, Indian tribes, and corporations—spent over $1 billion on lobbying, candidates, ballot measures, and other political activities. In a state as large and influential as California, it’s not hard to imagine millions of dollars being expended on directing its course—especially when multiple ballot measures every election pit one interest group against another.
But among the top fifteen big spenders, one special interest group particularly stands out: the California Teachers Association (CTA). In the last decade, the CTA has spent over $200 million on lobbying and political activities—almost double what the second highest-spending lobbying group spent.
Unions have become the dominant political influence in California. At the mere hint of any threat to their power structure, the union-financed political machine fires up and intimidates all opposition. The hubris of the unions is such that during a legislative budget committee hearing last summer, one union leader threatened, “We helped get you into office and we’ve got a good memory.”
The CTA’s spending is especially noteworthy when one considers the issues it spends its members’ dues on. Most of the CTA’s 325,000 members probably assume that their dues are used only on education-related matters. But the CTA has branched out into all sorts of political battles beyond education funding.
Although it would seem logical that a teachers union would only focus on education issues, a look at the CTA web site reveals the true goal of this progressive union. According to the CTA mission statement, the union exists to “protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning; to advance the cause of free, universal, and quality public education.” That sounds like a perfectly ordinary goal for a teachers union.
But the mission statement goes on to explain that the union also exists to “ensure that the human dignity and civil rights of all children and youth are protected; and to secure a more just, equitable, and democratic society.” Ensuring “human dignity and civil rights,” as well as a “more just, equitable and democratic society” is far beyond the scope of simply lobbying for teachers’ salaries or more school supplies.
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