Today’s San Francisco Chronicle editorializes that Governor Newsom is bending to special interests in dealing with California’s schools, which have been the slowest in the country to reopen. But surely the Chronicle knows that Mr. Newsom cannot open, much less reform, California’s schools without the vigorous support of the Legislature, and right now both branches operate in fear of school employee unions that for nearly five decades have always been there for legislators who toe their line and hit hard at those who don’t.
In 2010 I witnessed a similar phenomenon when GOP State Senators who had loudly proclaimed support for pension reform nevertheless blocked Governor Schwarzenegger’s pension reform out of fear of prison guard union retaliation. Over the last ten years, both parties have overwhelmingly voted in favor of six salary increases for prison guards that lawmakers know are unnecessary and divert money from social programs. School employee unions are equally if not more powerful. That’s why lawmakers need general interest supporters who will always be there for them.
Corporations also engage in special interest politics. That’s why California must ban political donations from corporations, unions and associations that receive money, or whose shareholders, employees or members receive money, under agreements with the state or its subdivisions. Residents and students are the state government’s customers. They, not providers, should be well served by elected officials.