Saturday, May 14, 2011

CALIFORNIA TEACHER PROTESTS: Thousands Rally Against Education Cuts

JULIET WILLIAMS, Associate Press, from the Huffington Post |

 California Teacher Protest

05/13/11 09:00 PM ET APSACRAMENTO, Calif. — Thousands of California teachers rallied in cities throughout the state Friday to demonstrate against the threat of deep education cuts and to appeal to Republican lawmakers to raise tax revenue for public schools.

Major demonstrations were taking place at the state Capitol, where more than two dozen teachers were arrested Thursday night, and in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

"Education can't take these cuts anymore," said Joyce Medeiros, 48, one of at least 1,000 teachers, students and supporters who filled Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.

The sixth-grade teacher at San Juan School in San Juan Bautista, where K-3 classes now have 32 students, used to be a PE teacher before the district cut physical education, art and music programs.

"We've taken our cuts. It's time to look for other solutions," she said.

Friday evening's demonstrations marked an end to a weeklong series of protests organized by the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.

Educators are trying to pressure Republican lawmakers to support Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to extend a series of temporary increases in the sales, vehicle and income taxes. Without those, the governor has warned of deep cuts to public schools that could force thousands of teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and a shorter school year.

But Assembly Republicans countered with their own budget proposal this week in which they propose to spend about $2 billion from an unanticipated $2.5 billion in tax revenues on schools, which they say would leave them fully funded.

Education lobbyists, however, said the GOP's budget plan would suspend a $450 million annual payment that funds programs in some of the state's neediest school districts.

On Monday, Brown is scheduled to release his updated plan to close California's remaining $15.4 billion deficit. Republicans in the state Legislature have steadfastly opposed the tax extensions, but Brown and Democratic lawmakers say an all-cuts budget would devastate public education and other core state programs.

Most of the

Friday demonstrations had a festive atmosphere, with musicians banging on drums and demonstrators blowing whistles. Signs reading "Tax the Rich" and "Bail out schools not banks" were common.

About 1,000 demonstrators clad in colorful T-shirts gathered at the Capitol, which has been the focal point of the week's protests. They were ringed by a strong law enforcement presence a day after 27 teachers were arrested for refusing to leave the inside of the Capitol, a misdemeanor.

Susie Hernandez, a fourth grade teacher from Hagginwood Elementary School in Sacramento, said she came because she is fearful about what further budget cuts will do to her students.

"Our state is falling apart," she said. "I'm hoping that somebody who can do something is willing to."

Among the hundreds of teachers who turned out in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles was Vincent Precht. The 53-year-old elementary school special education teacher has not been threatened with losing his job but showed solidarity with his colleagues who are facing layoffs by wearing a woman's pink slip.

He said that in his 25 years with the district, he has never seen such a "terrible anti-teacher, anti-union" atmosphere.


Associated Press writers Terence Chea in San Francisco and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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