SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A week of statewide teacher protests in California, over threatened budget cuts that would devastate elementary and secondary schools and their students, included the arrest of 26 members of the California Teachers Association on May 13 after a sit-in at the Capitol here.
The impact of the protests organized by the association, a National Education Association affiliate, is unclear. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, proposed extending $11 billion in expiring tax increases to fund the schools and close the state's overall budget gap, but the GOP minority in the state legislature may have enough votes to block that.
Besides the Sacramento protest, where California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and the others were arrested after refusing to leave lawmakers' offices, thousands of teachers and their supporters marched in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Bernardino, and elsewhere.
All said that without the revenue, state aid - necessary because of California's long-standing local property tax caps - would be devastated, and so would the schools.
"Education can't take these cuts anymore," Joyce Medeiros, a sixth grade teacher in San Juan Batista, told the Associated Press during a 1,000-person rally in San Francisco. She said K-3 classes now have 32 kids or more, far above national averages and recommendations for success in schools. "We've taken our cuts," she said. "It's time to look for other solutions."
"If we don't get the extension, then public education in California will die," A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told an afternoon press conference there; he accompanied yet another rally that drew thousands. Vincent Precht, a special education teacher in L.A., showed solidarity with his fired colleagues - due to the budget cuts - at the L.A. rally by wearing a woman's pink slip over his clothes, the Los Angeles Times reported. "I've never seen such a terrible anti-teacher anti-union atmosphere," he said.
Susie Hernandez, a fourth grade teacher in Sacramento, came to the state Capitol protest because, "Our state is falling apart. I'm hoping that somebody who can do something is willing to."
But the attitude of the GOP was symbolized by state Assembly GOP minority leader Connie Conway, who said tax increases are not needed to fund the schools. "These big union tactics will not sway my opinion," she said in a statement.
The GOP has countered with its own $2.5 billion school aid plan, which teachers called inadequate.
Photo: Shaun Martin // CC 2.0