Calif. Unions Step Up Opposition to Public Education Gutting

Seth Sandronsky March 2, 2010

March­es, ral­lies planned statewide

SACRA­MEN­TO, CALIF. — Stu­dents and work­ers in California’s pub­lic schools — K‑12 and high­er edu­ca­tion — will protest against deep bud­get cuts on Thurs­day, March 4.

We have nev­er before wit­nessed this much par­tic­i­pa­tion and out­rage about the dis­mal state of edu­ca­tion on our state cam­pus­es and in our pub­lic schools,” says Lil­lian Taiz, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Fac­ul­ty Asso­ci­a­tion (CFA), a labor union which rep­re­sents a total of 23,000 tenured and tenure-track instruc­tion­al fac­ul­ty, lec­tur­ers, librar­i­ans, coach­es and coun­selors in the 23-cam­pus Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty. The call for March 4 protests has hit a nerve. It’s an his­toric moment.”

In Cal­i­for­nia and across the U.S., tax rev­enues have slowed sharply after the hous­ing mar­ket crash. K‑12 spend­ing cuts of $18 bil­lion in the past two years have closed Cal­i­for­nia schools and forced local dis­tricts to fire employ­ees. With a $20 bil­lion state bud­get deficit now, Gov­er­nor Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger is propos­ing edu­ca­tion cuts of $2.5 bil­lion, while vow­ing to pro­tect California’s pub­lic school students.

Our mes­sage is sim­ple: leg­is­la­tors must pro­tect and expand the bud­get for pub­lic edu­ca­tion with ade­quate fund­ing,” said Kevin Wehr, a soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at Sacra­men­to State Uni­ver­si­ty and CFA cam­pus president.

Local school dis­tricts depend on state aid, the decline of which has received a short-term patch of fed­er­al funds from the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma signed in mid-Feb­ru­ary 2009. These fed­er­al dol­lars have saved some K‑12 school jobs and pro­grams, but this rev­enue source is near­ing an end.

The past year also brought dou­ble-dig­it fee increas­es for CSU and UC stu­dents. These post-sec­ondary stu­dents are also fac­ing few­er and more crowd­ed course sec­tions.

On Thurs­day, march­es and ral­lies to defend pub­lic edu­ca­tion from fur­ther spend­ing cuts will take place statewide — from the San Fran­cis­co Civic Cen­ter and Per­sh­ing Square in Los Ange­les to the CSU North­ridge cam­pus and state capi­tol in Sacra­men­to.

Sim­i­lar assem­blies to oppose pub­lic edu­ca­tion cuts will take place in 17 addi­tion­al states across the coun­try, accord­ing to the CFA. The 340,000-member Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, a K‑12 teach­ers union, is also show­ing sup­port for the March 4 day of pub­lic edu­ca­tion action.

Back in Sacra­men­to — where Democ­rats con­trol both hous­es of the leg­is­la­ture — Major­i­ty Leader Alber­to Tor­ri­co (D‑Newark) will speak at the state Capitol’s Edu­cate the State” ral­ly. His Assem­bly Bill 656 would impose a 9.9 per­cent tax on Cal­i­for­nia oil pro­duc­ers, direct­ing rough­ly $1 bil­lion to the state’s high­er edu­ca­tion system.

The Cal­i­for­nia Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, which rep­re­sents 120,000 teach­ers and sup­port per­son­nel from ear­ly child­hood through the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, is under­tak­ing a series of actions to pub­li­cize the under­fund­ing of pub­lic edu­ca­tion and social ser­vices and to reform how the state leg­is­la­tors make deci­sions,” said Ken Burt, CFT polit­i­cal director.

These events include the March 4 protests, which aim to call atten­tion to the detri­men­tal affects of sky­rock­et­ing tuition at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, and a March 5 kick­off in Los Ange­les for a march to Sacra­men­to” that will push for a Novem­ber 2010 bal­lot to allow a sim­ple leg­isla­tive major­i­ty to pass a state bud­get.

In Cal­i­for­nia, the con­sti­tu­tion requires the votes of two-thirds — not a major­i­ty — of law­mak­ers to pass bud­get and rev­enue actions.

CFT’s statewide march will end in Sacra­men­to at the state Capi­tol on April 21.

Seth San­dron­sky is a free­lance writer whose work has appeared in the Atlanta Jour­nal Con­sti­tu­tion, Race and Class, Review of Rad­i­cal Polit­i­cal Eco­nom­ics, Sacra­men­to News & Review and Z Mag­a­zine, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. He lives and writes in Sacra­men­to, Calif., and can be reached at ssandronsky@​yahoo.​com.
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