PTA moms drive grass-roots movement

February 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A group of San Francisco moms showed the power of grass-roots organizing on Thursday night. They were so angry when they heard about San Francisco's dramatic plan to cut the school budget, they decided to hold a town hall meeting on the issue. The turn-out shocked even them.

The San Francisco auditorium was packed.

"We're frustrated and we want to make change," said organizer Linda Shaffer from Funding Our Future.

More than 1,000 people crammed into Marina Middle School in San Francisco -- some arriving in buses from across the city. They came to a town hall meeting organized by six PTA moms who decided they had had enough.

"This turn out says to me people are ready to take action, they're ready to seriously think about how they're voting, what they're voting for," said Shaffer.

San Francisco's Board of Education is planning $113 million in cuts to schools-- all because of a lack of funding from the state. The news motivated parent Noelle Yuan to make her first appearance at a meeting as an activist.

"Already we do a lot of fundraising at the school and it seems like this is more than parents can cover by individual fundraising," said Yuan.

"Now you need us more than ever," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Panelists from local and state government were asked what they plan to do. Locally, leaders say they need support for a parcel tax this November.

"These are difficult issues you require a 2/3 vote by the voters to get this done -- very, very difficult," said Board president Supervisor David Chu.

At the state level, they want to amend Prop 13, the initiative that limits property taxes.

"For too long, Prop 13 has held us hostage. For too long it has suffocated us. For too long it has oppressed us," said Assembly member Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

The meeting was so successful, organizers are now talking about forming a political action committee so they can fund elections, but up next is a demonstration in Civic Center Plaza next Thursday at 5:00 p.m.