Bay Area teachers hold protests against school cuts

Bay Area teachers hold protests against school cuts
May 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Teachers are also feeling the pain of the state's budget crisis. Across the Bay Area on Tuesday, they are demonstrating their concerns in a unique way, while a key decision could come in a financially troubled local school district.

Large and small rallies broke out across the state in day two of these demonstrations. About 20 teachers, parents, and two superintendants pointed out today that K-12 makes up 40 percent of the budget, but they have taken 60 percent of the cuts.

Over the past three years, California has lost 40,000 teachers and the teacher to student ratio is the highest in the country. One teacher told ABC7 about class overcrowding in Richmond.

"The middle school history class was being staffed at 48 to one. That's over 220 students a day that this teacher will be seeing and you can't even imagine what that does to the students, let alone the safety issues," said Eric Heins from the California Teachers' Association.

When asked why not do top-down cutting, Contra Costa County School Superintendant Joseph Ovick said, "I would agree with him and I've done that. I've reduced...my reductions began at the cabinet level, superintendant's cabinet level, and I personally have not had a pay increase in the last three years."

In Walnut Creek, a small rally was held. A much larger one happened at Sunvalley Mall in Concord on Tuesday evening where teachers demonstrated and graded papers.

Two school districts voted to lay off teachers Tuesday night. The San Francisco Unified School District board voted to give 139 pink-slips to teachers. The Mount Diablo Unified School District's board voted to lay off 180 teachers as a way of dealing with its budget crisis. That school district has already been cut to the bare bones. Teachers, administrators, and parents rallied against the layoffs before the evening's meeting in Walnut Creek.

This came on a day when educators held a series of "grade-ins" at shopping malls across the state. They wanted to show Californians how much work teachers take home, everyday and on weekends. That workload grows as class sizes increase because of budget cuts.

"So I used to have an average class size in middle school of 29 and now all my classes are 34 or 25 kids. Middle school is challenging enough and one extra body makes a big difference and that child doesn't get what they need," said Cathy Lee from the San Lorenzo Educators Association.

Management at San Leandro's Bayfair Mall wanted these teachers arrested for trespassing, but police brokered a solution between the two sides.


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