SACRAMENTO – Students, teachers and parents came to the state capitol here May 9 to demand that there be no cuts in state funding for education in the state’s budget for 2003.

The crowd of 1,000 waved signs that read, ‘Schools, Not Jails’ and ‘Books, Not Bombs.’ Andrea Walker, a junior at Skyline High, said, ‘We’re here fighting for our future – for money we deserve to fund our education.’

The rally was in protest of proposed cuts of $800 million in funding for education, being called for by Governor Gray Davis to deal with a projected state deficit of $24 billion for the coming fiscal year.

California stands 38th in the nation in funding for education, and is faced with overcrowded classrooms, decaying school buildings, lack of textbooks, elimination of music, arts, school librarians and other departments, and a shortage of credentialed teachers.

The rally was sponsored by the School Districts of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Berkeley, the Oakland Teachers Association and San Francisco Teachers Union and numerous parent groups.

The rally also was critical of standardized tests that students are required to take and that are seen as promoting a cycle of inferiority among children who fail. Aaron Reaven, organizer for California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education, pointed out that lower scores frequently reflect schools with little or no resources. ‘The elimination of those tests would free up millions of dollars that could be used to improve education,’ said Reaven.

Oakland School Board member Kerry Hamill, who chaired the rally, suggested that increasing the tax bracket on couples making $250,000 and up would bring in an extra $4 billion, and repealing the vehicle license fee rebate for luxury cars would yield several billion more.

As the students prepared to leave the rally to lobby their legislators, they were urged by Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge to ‘Tell the legislators that you’re not willing to accept educational starvation in a state that has plenty. The education crisis is more important than the energy crisis, and more important than paying off big corporations.’

The view of many students was expressed by Montera Middle School eighth grader Jared Hunter, who told the crowd, ‘I think it’s stupid how politicians always talk about how we need more education and then they’re taking away our education. They’re being hypocritical.’

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org

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