Saturday, June 21, 2008


By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor | LA Wave Newspapers


Local school workers are mobilizing to take a midnight ride to Sacramento Monday to urge California legislators to stop the devastating cuts to school budgets that loom as the result of the governor’s proposal to reduce the state’s education funding by more than $4 billion for the upcoming school year.

Hundreds of Los Angeles Unified School District teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, clerks, custodians and others are signing up to board buses at midnight Monday to travel overnight and spend the day lobbying state legislators about the impact the governor’s budget cuts will have on local classrooms and communities.

While the workers are in Sacramento, the LAUSD school board will begin dealing with that impact by drafting a provisional budget Tuesday to reflect the proposed trickle down cut of $400 million from Los Angeles’ schools. Even though the district has approved layoffs and furlough days to address the cuts, its provisional budget is expected to slash more than $350 million from educational programs and services.

District administrators say a final budget may not be possible until late summer or early fall when state legislators vote on a final state budget. Hence, Monday’s midnight ride to the capital is being launched so workers can personally press for the restoration of funding before students return to school in the fall.

The Midnight Ride to Sacramento kicks off “A Summer of Action” the workers and the various school unions have planned to restore school funding in the district. Actions in the coming months will include a “Fund Our Schools” phone-a-thon to legislators, more lobbying trips to Sacramento and one-on-one button-holing visits to local politicians.

Blanca Gallegos, spokesperson for SEIU, Local 99, from whose downtown offices the buses will roll at midnight, said: “We’re telling legislators that they can’t gamble with students’ education. Depending on the lottery to fund schools won’t work. We need to secure real, long-term solutions to this budget deficit or our students will continue to be held hostage by this budget process every year. This is about our children’s future — and the future of our state.”

One of the midnight riders, Demond Cohran, a special education assistant at Venice High School, said: “If we cut staff, kids will be on top of kids in overcrowded classrooms. We won’t be able to serve them with the extra attention that they need to learn. It will be watered-down instruction. We’re here on the front lines and we need help, not cuts.”

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