By Kristina Davis | UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
April 19, 2008 -- SAN DIEGO – Teachers, parents and students marched by the hundreds Saturday to protest proposed budget cuts and teacher layoffs that are threatening schools across the state.
The downtown rally, which drew an estimated 500 protesters, began in Balboa Park and ended at the state government building on Front Street.
“No more cuts!” the crowd chanted during the march.
Several protesters held signs criticizing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is calling for $4.4 billion in cuts to education statewide to meet California's projected $16 billion budget shortfall.
Many of the teachers who participated have already received pink slips from their various school districts, including fourth-grade teacher Ben Champion, who stole the show in a bright yellow chicken suit with a sign that read: “This is Fowl.”
The 30-year-old said the San Diego Unified School District was partly to blame for laying him off despite being voted Teacher of the Year at Baker Elementary School last year.
“They took the easiest route by just cutting teachers, instead of looking at other things to cut,” said Champion. “The effect will be catastrophic.”
Kids of all ages showed solidarity with their teachers, chanting, “Yay for school!” before the march.
“They are sending the message to everyone that they are concerned about their education,” said Andrea Thrower, a teacher at Cubberley Elementary School in Serra Mesa. “What about children who are going to face sitting in classrooms of 40? They will be greatly impacted if these cuts go through.”
In Balboa Park, 918 apples were arranged in the shape of a large apple to represent each educator who has been laid off in San Diego's school district.
An estimated 2,000 teachers countywide could lose their jobs if the cuts are approved.