County Education Leaders Declare "State of Emergency" at Colton Hall Rally
May 9, 2011
Another day, another protest at Colton Hall.
Today's rally, sponsored by the California Teachers Association and advertised on red-inked flyers as "State of Emergency," was part of a statewide movement to demand that California's lawmakers pass a budget with temporary tax extensions. The alternative? What Gov. Jerry Brown has termed the "all cuts budget," which will slash billions of dollars more from state agency budgets, including education, to close California's $15 billion budget gap.
"We were hoping for more people," said Jill Lowe, a spokesperson for CTA, which at 325,000 members strong is one of the state's most powerful public employee unions. Lowe, a teacher at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental School in Salinas, speculated that some teachers didn't show because they knew that controversial Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd would be there. On Friday, nearly 300 parents, teachers and district residents marched from Colton Hall to the MPUSD offices to protest the raise given to Shepherd and her staff by the Board of Education.
Shepherd wasn't the only heavy hitter at Monday's gathering, which attracted just over 20 people. Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, Monterey Bay Teachers Association President Dennis Wright, and representatives for Assemblymen Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) and William Monning (D-Carmel) were also on hand to speak or take questions from the small crowd.
"We've seen a 50 percent cut in the education [budget] over the past four years," said Wright. "Our kids are getting a third world education," when what they deserve, in Lowe's words, is "a bright future." That's why both were there to galvanize supporters to call and write their legislators and urge them to sign on to a temporary tax extension. At present, four Republicans, including Blakeslee, refuse to vote for any extension. If they don't relent, the Governor will have no choice but to enact the worst-case scenario, which would mean that the state could lose even more teachers than the projected 20,000 who are expected to be pink-slipped this year.
Judy Karas of Monterey is one taxpayer who'd gladly pay more to keep class sizes down and school supplies well-stocked. "I want to support the valued, needed programs that we're losing," said Karas (pictured). "They've talked for years about leveling the playing field, but instead they're setting up more obstacles."
A simultaneous protest took place today in Salinas, and many more are planned across the state this Friday.