Over the last three years, public services in California have been decimated by budget cuts. Unless action is taken to extend taxes set to expire soon, there will be more cuts. That’s why a coalition of groups led by the California Teachers Association, has initiated a State of Emergency Campaign. The campaign designated May 9-13 as a Week of Action to build support saving state services and public education by extending the taxes.
During the week, dozens of rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings were held all across the state. The week ends with four regional demonstrations and a rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento where hundreds of volunteers will stage a sit-in.
“We are living in a state of emergency,” said David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “Educators, parents and community leaders are fighting back against state budget cuts that are decimating our schools, public safety and health care services. To protect essential public services, the Legislature must finish the job of resolving the state budget crisis by extending current tax rates legislatively. Time is running out for our students and our communities.”
California is facing a $15 billion deficit. Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat who has already cut about $8 billion from the budget, proposed legislation that would allow California voters the opportunity to vote on extending taxes that will soon expire. Extending the taxes would generate $9 billion in revenue and save public services from further cuts.
Republicans, however, have blocked votes on legislation needed to authorize the referendum. The Legislature could also extend the taxes, but it would take a two-thirds vote to do so, which would require a handful of Republican support. So far no Republican has been willing to support the tax extension.
Without the tax extension, funding for public education will be cut by another $4 billion. State spending on public education has already been cut by $20 billion over the last three years.
At one of the Week of Action events held in the Berryessa Union School District, located in the northeast foothills area of San Jose, the president of California Teachers Association Berryessa, Maria Smith, explained the local impact of the cuts. “Our current contract states a 24:1 student/teacher ratio,” Smith said. “Due to the budget deficit, the school board members are proposing an increase of 30:1.” Smith said that 99 teachers in the district have already received pink slips in anticipation of the budget cuts.
On Wednesday, a “well-practiced” drill team organized by the State of Emergency Campaign marched into the Capitol waving fake dollar bills and chanting “don’t pass the buck,” aimed at Republican lawmakers who have refused to accept responsibility for adequately funding public services.
On Thursday, 27 demonstrators including Sanchez were arrested after they gathered near the offices of two leading Republican lawmakers and confronted the lawmakers about their unwillingness to fund public services and public education. The California Highway Patrol was called to the offices and arrested the demonstrators after they refused to leave.
The State of Emergency Campaign includes the state’s two largest teacher unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, The California Association of School Administrators, the California School Board Association, the California Parent Teacher Association, and other unions and education and community groups.
The campaign has declared Friday, May 13 a Not Business as Usual Day. Rallies will be held in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Francisco, and Sacramento. After the rally in Sacramento, at least 300 volunteers will stage a sit-in at the Capitol and won’t leave unless arrested. CTA will be streaming live video of this rally beginning at 4:45 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Savings Time) at www.castateofemergency.com.