By Len Feldman
In August, a group of educators, school employees and school board members brought their hunger strike to the state Capitol. Spearheaded by a CTA member from Rio Vista who serves on the Oxnard school board, the group and three lawmakers warned the governor and legislators that their budget cuts were "starving public education."
They put their stomachs where their hearts are — in support of public education and students. Last month a group of Oxnard area educators, including Rio Vista elementary teacher and CTA member Denis O'Leary, brought their hunger strike to the state Capitol protesting the governor's education cuts.
O'Leary, who also serves as president of the Oxnard school board, California School Employees Association member Esmeralda Ahumada, and school board member Ana Del Rio-Barba were joined by Assembly Members Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), and Tom Torlakson (D-Martinez) at a Capitol news conference. They told reporters they were protesting the negative effect the cuts were having on students.
The hunger strikers spent nearly seven full days in a park in Oxnard, collecting signatures on petitions and letters to the governor protesting the devastating education reductions. They planned to turn the petitions and letters with more than 1,000 signatures over to the governor's office.
O'Leary called on the governor to "stand up and help our students and the future of California."
Del Rio-Barba, who sparked the hunger strike, said observers told her that their sacrifice wouldn't matter to public officials in Sacramento. "It's not about Sacramento, it's about children — and we can't sit back and let it happen."
Assembly Member Nava declared that he was introducing legislation to impose an oil severance tax on every barrel of oil taken out of the ground in the state. He said the tax would raise more than $1.5 billion, funds that could be used to "feed" starving schools. "Even Alaska and Governor Palin and virtually every other state have oil severance taxes," said Nava.