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The Strategy of the 25 Teachers’ Salaries Campaign
by Mark Graham restated October 15, 2011
One question about the 25 Teachers’ Salaries campaign is why the campaign is directed at local school boards and the state legislature rather than Congress. After all our policy goal is passage of our bill, America’s Weapons Rebate to Education Act – to “trade bombs for teachers” – a bill that will change the federal budget to re-allocate money from the Pentagon to the States to enable the states to restore their support for education to the level of the 2005-06 school year.
Our strategy is to persuade the California legislature to pass a joint resolution supporting this bill. To do this we ask school boards and teachers unions to ask for this state action. We believe that when people in the other 49 states see this resolution they will copy what California has done.
There are really three goals:
#1) To educate as many Americans as possible, including local and state decision makers, that for $1 million the U.S. can either have one bomb* or a school district can pay 25 starting teachers’ salaries for one year. (* The Tomahawk cruise missile costs about $1.5 million each.)
#2) To build a nationwide grassroots movement including parents, teachers, and peace activists who will take action in their school district to express support for our proposed legislation. Also, to have local and state governments on the record as supporting the proposed legislation.
#3) To have our bill, America’s Weapons Rebate to Education Act, signed into law.
To answer the question about strategy, we have chosen this strategy for the following reasons:
#1) All politics are local. We believe that we have a better chance of influencing our elected leaders at the local level than in Congress. It matters what people in each school district think.
#2) Congress is unreachable on the subject of war and peace. Every member of Congress represents a state or district whose schools are in a deep financial crisis, yet for the last 10 years Congress has raised the military budget by 9% per year and the financial statements of the DOD were not audited. This is why we believe directly lobbying Congress would be a waste of time.
We believe that a grassroots campaign that becomes a nationwide movement can change this.
#3) Unlike Congress the state legislatures actually have to balance a budget. California’s Constitution requires it. California was 100 days late with its balanced budget in 2010 and it was revised later, but compare this to the federal budget. The States may view our bill as a new revenue source, which it is. Congress’ revenue source is the Federal Reserve and deficit spending which is why we believe Congress won’t move on this bill without political pressure.
#4) We will have a louder voice and one that will be heard locally by going through local and state government. Suppose we get 5,000 individuals and 20 school boards to sign a petition and pass resolutions addressed to the President and Congress. Would they even notice? Would the media report it? When the California legislature passes the joint resolution we believe the media will notice and report it. The rest of the nation, or at least education advocates in the other 49 states, will hear about it. Like E.F. Hutton, when the California legislature speaks, we listen.