Why “Blue State” Teachers Need Their Own Revolt

California is arguably the bluest of blue states.

We have a Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, both houses of the state legislature are about two-thirds Democratic, the state’s two U.S. senators are Democrats, and almost three-quarters of the delegation to the U.S. House is Democratic. Los Angeles and San Francisco have Democratic Party mayors and are considered liberal strongholds.

California is also by far the richest state in the nation. In fact, considered by itself, it’s the sixth-largest economy in the world, home to mega-corporations like Apple, Chevron, Wells Fargo, Disney, Visa, The Gap, and Hewlett Packard.

Yet California public schools languish at 46th out of the 50 states in per-pupil funding.

What does this mean for teachers and students? Here are the numbers: California spends $75,560 per year for each person it incarcerates and only $10,291 per student. Some 57 percent of California school districts don’t employ a single nurse.

The K-12 student-to-teacher ratio in California ranks among the highest in the nation. Each school counselor serves an average of 945 students, compared to the 250 students recommended by the American School Counselors Association. While the state auditor recommends one school librarian for every 785 students, the ratio in California is one to 8,091.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I teach, class size “limits” in our contract — which actually can be waived if our school district declares a “fiscal emergency” — are 37 for 9th and 10th grade academic classes and 46 for all other high school classes. In our current contract campaign, we’re fighting for lower class sizes and real, enforceable caps.

My classroom is so crowded with student desks that my students and I sometimes can’t get from one side of the room to the other unless we walk outside and enter through the other door.

I teach at a large high school with a sprawling campus which once had 18 custodians to clean it in the evening. Now we have just three….

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