Teachers protest education cuts

February 3, 2009 5:34:46 PM PST
The proposed cuts to education compelled teachers and parents in San Francisco to take to the streets. A major rally was underway around 5 p.m. Tuesday evening at San Francisco's City Hall. The state superintendent of schools says it's a precarious time for education.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said if these cuts go through, school districts throughout California have to make some very hard choices.

There were thousands of signatures collected by San Francisco teachers that are meant to persuade the governor to stop making budget cuts to education. $10.8 billion is what the governor is proposing to cut from education and community colleges are also included in that number.

"We are doing so well with what little we have, and if you take the huge amount of money out of here that they are talking about, we're really worried about what's going to happen," said Dennis Kelly, from the San Francisco teacher's union.

In his annual state of education address, O'Connell said schools would suffer long-term damage if the cuts are implemented. O'Connell also suspended all non-mandatory school visits made by his department.

"I want our school districts and our schools to focus every ounce of energy they have on improving student achievement, not on preparing for program audits," said O'Connell.

O'Connell knows how some school districts are reacting to the proposed cuts. For example, Hayward Unified may increase class sizes from 20 students to 32 in K through third grade. Teachers would be laid off. Even though the California legislature has not passed a budget, school districts are making cuts anticipating the worst.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) of San Mateo served in the state legislature and says the budget process is in need of reform.

"The system in California is broken. It is absolutely, unquestionably broken," said Speier.

"I think the thing that would really change Sacramento's whole attitude is if they came down and stayed in our world for a while, visited our world for a while and see what their cuts rally mean to the school children and the adults who are teaching them," said Ken Tray, a San Francisco teacher.

Another rally is expected on Wednesday in Oakland. Teachers from 18 Alameda County school districts will gather again to protest these proposed budget cuts.

Jack O'Connell's State of Education Address:
Video: click here (wmv; 36:47)
Audio only: click here (wma; 36:47)

Text of the address: click here
P-16 Recommendations: click here