Contacts: Sandra Jackson at 916-325-1550 or Mike Myslinski, 408-921-5769
Bringing grim stories from their decimated schools, more than 200 local chapter leaders representing thousands of educators from across the state took to the halls of the Capitol today to convince legislators to stop public school cuts and to get them to sign cards committing them to protect education during the state budget battle ahead.
“Teachers know that our state’s $19 billion budget deficit is a crisis, but education has already been cut by $17 billion over the last two years,” said David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “California voters believe protecting schools from more cuts should be a top priority during the budget fight. Now the governor’s revised budget wants to cut billions more. Teachers today asked lawmakers to stop the cuts, and to sign commitment cards to show they stand with parents and educators to protect our classrooms and students.”
The commitment cards are part of a California Education Coalition campaign outlined at www.PromiseToStudents.com. They ask legislators to promise to protect public schools from further cuts; stand by the agreement signed into law last summer to repay $11.2 billion owed to public schools; and to oppose any attempt to undermine Proposition 98, the voter-approved minimum school funding guarantee.
In a Sacramento news conference during the CTA lobby day with Sanchez, teachers like Jeanette Wylie from Solano County stood with lawmakers who have signed the cards, including Assembly members Tom Torlakson, Tony Mendoza, and Senator Leland Yee. Students face soaring class sizes and widespread cuts in Wylie’s Travis Unified School District serving Fairfield and Vacaville.
“This past year our class sizes have soared, with up to 55 students in our P.E. classes and 39 in academic classes,” said Wylie, president of the Travis Unified Teachers Association. “We have one librarian for our 5,200 students – and only one school nurse for all of our students.”
Several lawmakers showed unity with teachers today by signing the commitment cards.
“I stand with the students, teachers, and parents who are saying ‘enough is enough,’” said Senator Yee, D-San Francisco. “The state budget should not be balanced on the backs of students, schools and the most vulnerable. I will continue to oppose all budgets that put the interests of corporations and the rich before the interests of public education and California families.”
“The people of California are telling us it’s time to stop starving our schools and get on with the business of educating our children,” said Assembly member Torlakson, D-Antioch. “They know that well-trained teachers and strong neighborhood schools are going to be the backbone of this effort. It’s time to reject the proposals by the governor and others who make teachers the scapegoats of their budget cuts. I’ve already signed this pledge. It’s a first step toward restoring California’s public schools.”
Assembly member Mendoza, D-Norwalk, also stood with teachers. “As a former teacher, I have fought tirelessly to continue our state’s support to strengthen our education system. Yet our education system continues to suffer from devastating cuts, underfunding, overcrowding and furloughs. Our education system, which has been historically underfunded, cannot afford more devastating cuts,” said Mendoza.
“We cannot continue to expect our schools, students and teachers to do more with less,” said Sonia Martin-Solis, a second grade teacher at Hillcrest Drive Elementary School in Los Angeles. “Essential support services such as nurse time and counseling have been severely impacted. Our state lawmakers must stop the cuts and I’m in Sacramento today to ask my own legislators to sign the commitment card and stand by their promise to make schools a priority. Our students deserve a chance at a better future than they are getting through these unprecedented budget cuts.”
Going office to office in the Capitol, determined teachers today met with their local representatives for urgent conversations about the scope of the growing school cuts crisis.
They reminded lawmakers that 20,000 educators have received preliminary pink slips this spring – meaning thousands will not be returning to teach in September – and that art, music, physical education and career technical education classes are being gutted across the state. Many community college students cannot find required courses due to cuts, and CSU students have lost roughly 10 percent of their faculty.
“Even before the governor proposed even more cuts in his revised budget, California’s schools already ranked at the very bottom of all 50 states in staff-to-student ratios,” CTA President Sanchez said. “Our classrooms are alarmingly overcrowded and we rank 46th in per-pupil funding. If lawmakers don’t find a way to protect public education from further devastation, generations of students will pay the price.”
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.