Students in Union City protest budget cuts

May 11, 2011 10:50:00 PM PDT
About 350 high school students walked out in protest, instead of sitting in class today in Union City. They're calling attention not only to state education cuts, but their own community who voted down a parcel tax to fund school needs.

Later on Wednesday afternoon there was a barbeque held by teachers and other public employees to tell the state that they are not adequately funding education. In the morning, it was the students who carried the message. A check of attendance records showed that more than 300 kids attended the protest. It was very peaceful and very organized.

The James Logan High School students said they knew they should have been in class, but they felt they had to make a statement. They know the district loses money when they aren't in school, but they feel so desperate - they walked out anyway.

"A lot of people had problems about the school not getting a lot of money because we're not in class, but it doesn't matter anymore, because we're not getting money at all. We're losing up to $10 million already," said protest organizer Ly Ho. "We're not doing this out of anger. We're doing this to voice our concern to the community, to the parents."

That frustrated feeling is evident across the state this week. Teachers have declared a state of emergency and have organized a variety of protests. In Alameda this morning, teachers handed out leaflets. In Sacramento, teachers are conducting sit-ins at the capitol.

"I don't want to mention my teacher's name, but she's my hero. On May 9, she went there and protested and got arrested and we owe it to her," said Ho.

The anger is especially intense in Union City because a parcel tax to help fund local schools just failed this week by 32 votes. Extra-curricular activities and school counselors will get cut unless the state steps in.

"I just feel like it's bad all over for Logan, I mean this is basically my home, sports is my home. I'm a track person and I love it here," said sophomore Fulton Mitchell.

Now, these students face the very real prospect that their sports and other extracurricular activities could be gone or become "pay to play" by next school year.

"I'm really thinking about the choir students that are coming in and the choir students that are going to be here when I leave. How are they going to feel when they have to pay a whole bunch of money to just be in a choir?" said senior James McDonald.

Some parents also showed up at the protest, not to scold the kids but to support them.

"They have a lot more courage than I did at their age, so I applaud all of them. They're doing a great job," said parent Natalie Haney. "I've learned so much from watching my kids grow in sports and activities, that for them to be without these things, they wouldn't be the great people that they are today."

In Union City they are hoping that the state will fund education and not do anymore drastic cuts, but there is little hope that will happen. The parents are now organizing grass roots fundraising efforts for the schools.

The largest school district in Contra Costa County is making some big cuts. Tuesday night, the Mount Diablo Unified School District voted to layoff 180 teachers and other staff to help balance a looming budget deficit. Teachers, administrators and parents held a rally before the meeting in Concord.

School officials say state budget cuts, along with declining enrollment. Prompted the board to approve the layoffs and officials warn that more layoffs could be necessary depending on the state's final budget plan.

On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown will unveil his revised budget, which could include another $4 billion in cuts for education. That would be a worst case scenario and if that were the case, in Union City up to 65 teachers could lose their jobs and of course hundreds more could face the same fate around the Bay Area.

ABC7's Laura Anthony contributed to this report


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