By Dina Martin
CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes stands up for public education at an event in Sacramento.
Whether they were rallying at the state Capitol in Sacramento, marching in San Joaquin County, or holding hands around schools in Georgetown, thousands of teachers, higher education faculty, parents, school employees, administrators and students turned out on March 4 throughout the Central Valley to stand up for schools.
Local chapters, large and small, heeded the call to “Start the Day for Schools” by holding activities before school, while other chapters joined together to stage marches and rallies after the school day.
“We think it’s important to join with educators, administrators, parents and people throughout the state who are standing up for schools in California,” said Linda Tuttle, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, which held activities at 14 different school sites. “We cannot continue to starve our schools and expect our students to thrive. Class sizes are soaring while important programs like adult education, counselors and other important programs are being cut. Our students deserve better than this.” The association is backing a parcel tax for the November election that will support small schools and smaller class sizes.
CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes hopped from a student-led mock funeral for education at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove to a massive rally at the Capitol sponsored by the California Faculty Association, and from there to a candlelight vigil at San Joaquin Delta College. The vigil followed a march by 500 people through Stockton that was sponsored by a host of organizations that included local CTA chapters and the California School Employees Association.
“We say ‘No!’ to more cuts,” Mendes told the crowd. “We have to restore the resources that have already been taken away, and we have to make sure California students and our state have the future they deserve.”
She continued, “We have to make Sacramento keep its promises to our schools. And we also have to stop letting politicians give corporations sweetheart tax breaks while our schools suffer! It’s not fair and it’s not right. In this economic climate everyone must pay their fair share.”
Manteca Educators Association President Ken Johnson said that class sizes in Manteca had increased from 20 to 32, and all of the high school librarians and 60 percent of the school counselors had been laid off.
“We need to change the direction of our state and build a better California for all of us,” said Johnson. “We must demand that politicians fund our schools with stable, consistent revenue, not gimmicks.”
“Even a 12-year-old is aware and can feel the trickle-down effects that cuts are making in his school,” said Bruce Grininger, a teacher at Lyman Gilmore Middle School, in an interview with the newspaper The Union. Grininger was out distributing pamphlets to parents with his colleagues in the Grass Valley Teachers Association. “The situation is beyond urgent. We need everyone aware and prepared to stand together and stand up for our schools.”
In Willows, where teachers participated in a 7 a.m. rally, Willows Teacher Association President Shelley Amaro told the local newspaper, “It’s important to act on a local level and get people involved. We want people to begin thinking about protecting education.”
At least 24 smaller chapters in Kern County participated in activities by putting signs in their car windows and parking them along the busy streets where parents dropped off students. Among them were teachers associations in the Fruitvale, Panama-Buena Vista, Edison, Delano Elementary, Lost Hills, El Tejon, Standard and Rosedale school districts.
Much of the major action in the Central Valley took place on college campuses. Students at CSU campuses in Bakersfield, Fresno and Stanislaus, San Joaquin Delta College and Merced College were among those who participated in rallies to protest the elimination of course offerings and the escalating costs of higher education. One of the largest gatherings of students was at the state Capitol, where students from CSU Sacramento, CSU Chico, UC Santa Cruz and local community colleges joined faculty leaders for an “Educate the State” rally.
There, college student Reid Milburn, president of the Student Senate of California Community Colleges, told the crowd, “Our courses have been slashed, our programs reduced, our faculty are being laid off. … How are we going to save the future if we can’t even get into our classes?”