By Mike Myslinski
How teachers and administrators in one Bay Area school district mobilized to schedule mock disaster drills the morning of March 4 shows why this statewide Day of Action against state cuts is sparking teamwork among all education stakeholders.
“We worked with our administrators, and our superintendent asked all of our principals to hold a disaster drill — because education funding is a disaster,” says Mike Noce, president of the 1,670-member Mt. Diablo Education Association in Contra Costa County.
Due to state cuts, the 34,000-student Mt. Diablo Unified School District laid off about 200 teachers last year and must cut $45 million over the next three years, giving a special urgency to the disaster drills. “These will be real drills for the students at our 40 schools, but we are asking our teachers to wear disaster attire, like hard hats, Red Cross T-shirts or fire hats to stress our alarm about the cuts,” says Noce. “We will be holding a news conference early in the morning to kick this off.”
Noce’s Alcosta Service Center Council came up with the disaster drill concept, taking into account that most schools already have a spring drill scheduled. The Council chair, Charmaine Kawaguchi, took the idea to the CTA State Council of Education, which passed a resolution in January urging all Education Coalition partners to reschedule spring disaster drills on March 4. Disaster drills were also being planned in San Francisco, Oakland and Dublin school districts, among other locations.
“CTA is taking a strong statewide role in March 4 demonstrations because our members want their union to be more involved in this ongoing battle against classroom cuts,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “We hear the frustrations voiced in our ongoing relational meetings with members held by chapter leaders that began last year — and how teachers want CTA to take the lead in this fight, and work with communities and coalitions as part of our long-term organizing strategy to protect our students and schools.”
Teacher mobilizing led to CTA’s “Start the Day for Students” campaign idea of holding events before school to dominate the morning television news cycle and educate communities about the cuts crisis.
“Pushing back against cuts on March 4 will help build local chapter solidarity around bargaining and other issues,” says San Bernardino educator Mikki Cichocki, chair of one key CTA strategy group and a CTA Board member. “Our goals are about stressing the local damages from $17 billion in education cuts over the last two years and the need to strengthen our union by inspiring more members to get involved. We must organize our communities against school cuts and for the state ballot initiative to repeal $2 billion in corporate tax breaks. Working with coalitions to build public awareness about the connection between quality public schools and good jobs is also vital.”
CTA is also supporting the California Federation of Teachers’ “March for California’s Future” that kicks off with a March 5 rally in Los Angeles followed by a six-week journey to Sacramento through many Central Valley towns to call attention to state cuts hurting local schools and jobs (see www.cft.org).
CTA’s social networking website — www.standupforschools.org — has a list of protest events throughout the state. On the site you can also listen to new radio ads launched statewide by CTA on Feb. 16 to promote March 4 and to sound the alarm about soaring class sizes due to cuts.
A sampling of March 4 events
- Burbank Unified teachers are rallying in front of all district schools before classes start.
- United Teachers Los Angeles is urging members to take part in several events, including a 4 p.m. Pershing Square gathering followed by a rally at the Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles (see www.utla.net).
- CSU Northridge is holding a 4:15 p.m. march and 5 p.m. rally.
- Teachers Association of Long Beach is staging a protest at 4:15 p.m. at the Wilson High School gymnasium in Long Beach, where the school district is sending out pink slips for nearly 750 educators (see www.talb.org).
- United Educators of San Francisco (facing 400 district pink slips) is holding a regional “Defend Our Classroom!” rally at 4 p.m. at the state PUC building (see www.uesf.org).
Visit CTA’s social networking website —
— to see a more complete list of protest events and to communicate with other members.
Governor's plan for more school cuts
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