O'Connell visits Alameda County

March 7, 2008 11:15:03 PM PST
With the state in deep money trouble, a surprising change of heart tonight from Governor Schwarzenegger.

He's hinting he may be open to a tax increase to make up for the shortfall in education budget.

With pink slips going out to teachers all over the Bay Area, the State Superintendent of Schools visited students in Alameda.

On Friday, Governor Schwarzenegger said everything, even a temporary hike in the sales tax to boost revenues, is "on the table" when it comes to sustaining education.

"Senator Perata has talked about tax increases in sales tax, tax loopholes. All those things ought to be on the table. We should look at all these things including fixing the budget system," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) California.

This year the state faces a $16 billion dollar shortfall and the governor proposed a 10-percent across the board budget cut, leaving educators with no choice but to lay off teachers and cancel programs.

"I hope we can strategize together. My responsibility is to get a good budget passed for education and I'm going to be asking you guys for help," said State superintendent Jack O'Connell.

The state superintendent got an earful from students' leaders at Alameda's two high schools.

They led the Wednesday walkout that took hundreds of students out of class to protest dramatic budget cuts that gutted the athletic program and eliminated many advanced placement and music classes in the district.

"We decided to walk out, that was the next step," said a student.

"What we need to do is come together and show Sacramento we don't accept this," said a high school student.

"They're sick of being cut every single year. For the last seven years, they've been cut $11 million dollars, now they want to cut $4.5 million more this year and next? It's just outrageous," said Encinal H.S. Athletic Director Kevin Gorham.

Students at wood middle school didn't walk out--- today they just cranked up the volume between classes to make a statement. The state superintendent counseled students to pressure politicians.

"I'm predicting come next week, you're going to see record layoff notices for public school teachers to meet the March 15 deadline and I think that's tragic," said O'Connell.

"I want to have decisions being made in our capital before March 15 so we can tell them and signal to them what really the outcome is," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

So next week, across the state, a record number of teachers will be getting pink slips. Parents and students are planning protests, and the governor says he's open to suggestions that could include a tax hike.