Two weeks after protests against cuts to education filled Bay Area streets (and one freeway) on March 4, employees in the public-education sector are still engaged in a fight against budgetary rollbacks. But it’s an uphill battle, as was made clear at a briefing organized by United Educators of San Francisco at City College of San Francisco March 18.
At El Dorado Elementary School in the Bayview, 11 of 15 teachers were issued pink slips, according to elementary school teacher Megan Caluza (featured in the video above). While this doesn’t mean all 11 teachers are on their way out the door, it does mean that none of them knows for sure whether there’s a guaranteed job in the school district in the coming year. Since the budget cuts hit, Caluza says she’s been spending just as much time “fighting to teach” as she has in the actual classroom.
Elementary schools aren’t the only places being hit hard. Statewide, more than 23,000 layoff notices were sent to K-12 teachers recently, with no one knowing for sure which recipients will stay or face job losses.
“What is more important to you, corporate tax loopholes, or teachers in your daughter’s classroom?” asked Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco. “A college education for your son to get ahead, or tax breaks for the wealthiest Californians?”
Meanwhile, community colleges throughout the state face fee hikes even as classes are being cancelled, summer programs are being scaled back or eliminated altogether, and staff faces layoffs and furloughs. According to AgainstCuts.org, a group that was instrumental in organizing March 4 activities, the student population at California community colleges is comprised of more than 50 percent women and people of color, with around 80 percent of students working while taking classes. Blows to this educational system impedes opportunities for career advancement for the nearly 3 million community college students, which is bad news not just for students with lifelong dreams and high hopes, but California’s economy as a whole.
On Monday, March 22, more than 3,000 students, faculty members and others from City College of San Francisco plan to hold a march and rally in Sacramento to highlight the impact of cuts to community colleges. Around 62 buses will be leaving SF early in the morning to arrive in Sacramento for a 10 a.m. rally on the steps of the State Capitol Building.
Joining students and teachers at CCSF yesterday was a representative from Californians for Democracy, an organization that is pushing a November ballot initiative, authored by University of California Berkeley Professor George Lakoff, that would change the two-thirds majority vote requirement for the state Legislature to pass a budget or raise taxes to a simple majority vote. While the initiative is still circulating petitions to gather signatures, it seems to have found allies in the growing movement against cuts to education.
March 4 represented “the first time we’ve ever done an all-education action,” Joan Berezin, a faculty member at Berkeley City College for 20 years, told the Guardian. “We’re trying to build the broadest coalition possible.”