Teachers union plans week of protests in Sacramento

May 6, 2011 6:18:08 PM PDT
Members of the California Teachers Association are taking their concerns over budget cuts to a dramatic new level next week. They are demanding their voices be heard.

Educators are fed up with what they call "endless" budget cuts. They say funding for kindergarten through college has been slashed by $20 billion over three years. Unless there are tax extensions, another $4 billion would be cut.

The Capitol may be quiet now, but starting Monday, it could get very crowded in the hallways and up in the gallery of each house. The California Teachers Association is declaring a "state of emergency" with weeklong protests statewide, including a Wisconsin-style sit-in that could involve hundreds, each and every day at the Capitol.

The California Highway Patrol says the group's permit is only for the outside, but officers know of efforts to bring the protests inside, which will be seen as civil disobedience.

"First from a verbal, not necessarily have to give them a verbal, to a disperse order, ultimately an arrest," CHP spokesperson Sgt. Steven Stone said. "There are different ways to resolve the situation."

The protest is over education funding and the push to extend temporary taxes to save schools from more cuts.

Concerned mother Ululani Cook agrees with the teachers' tactic, even if it results in arrests.

"By teachers coming here and showing their support, we want the legislators to also know that everybody is serious about saving education," Cook said.

Republicans say the sit-in should not be directed at them; they would have gone along with the tax extensions had they gotten something in return.

"It would be unnecessary had the governor and legislative leaders been willing to stand up against public unions and negotiate a budget that included pension reform and a spending cap," Jann Taber, spokesperson for state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said.

Complicating matters is another group staging a different sit-in, although it is unclear how many will show up at that one. Peace activist Cindy Sheehan and her group will also protest the governor's budget proposal, which she says is unfair to vulnerable Californians.

"I'm willing to be arrested, yes, if that's what it's going to take," Sheehan said. "I've never been arrested in California before. It'll be a new experience."

The Sacramento County Jail has already been given a heads up of a possible influx of arrests.

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