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"Day of the Teacher" marked by protests

May 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Wednesday was "Day of the Teacher" in California, but many of them had little to celebrate because of budget cuts and potential layoffs. In Oakland, teachers packed a school board meeting early Wednesday evening to make their concerns clear.

The Oakland school board decided late Wednesday night on how many teachers and staff will lose their jobs this year.

As the district faces a $85 million budget shortfall, board members accepted a recommendation by school staff to cut 39 teachers and counselors, and 251 other employees. Roughly, 26,000 pink slips were originally handed out in March.

The layoffs go into effect July 1.

There were rallies in other parts of the Bay Area to show support for teachers. In addition, the teachers union made two major announcements Wednesday.

Late in the afternoon, Oakland teachers formed a line around Lake Merritt; yet another public event to try to gather support from the community.

In the morning, Fremont teachers repeated what we've heard in prior months, that budget cuts will have a big impact in the classroom.

"First grade where kids are learning to read, 30:1 versus 20:1, that is a huge impact," says Michelle Cosgrove, a Fremont teacher.

"Over the last two years, more than $17 billion has been cut from education. Our schools and colleges can't withstand anymore. They need more resources," says David Sanchez, the CTA president.

So the California Teachers Association is now behind a new ballot initiative that, according to the union, would maintain a source of revenue -- $2 billion a year for the state.

For example, in 2011 some companies will get a longer tax break, up to 20 years on their operating losses. In addition, their income tax will be based only on what they sell in California.

The teachers union wants to repeal that by supporting the so-called jobs tax initiative which will appear on the November ballot.

"If you are going to continue to try to solve this budget crisis in California by cutting, how can you still at the same time be giving tax breaks to large corporations," says Dean Vogel, the CTA vice president.

Jeremy Leffler is with Bay Bio, representing hundreds of bio tech companies. He says repealing the tax reforms would hurt startups and other local businesses

"New taxes, higher taxes, means companies have fewer dollars to hire employees. Fewer employees mean fewer revenues for our vital public services such as hospitals and education," says Leffler.

Besides looking for more revenue at the eleventh hour, the teachers union launched a statewide TV ad campaign to try to gain support where it's needed. That is a two-month, $200,000 TV ad campaign.

The school board and the employees union are set to restart contract talks on Thursday for the first time since December.


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