‘Day of Action’ Planned in Protest of State Education Cuts

March 4 event will draw teachers, parents, unions, state workers and others to various sites, organizers say.

No more summer schools.  The elimination of many after school programs, cuts to programs that help students pass high school, closing of school libraries, eliminating art, music, and sports; soaring class sizes, fewer opportunities for students to go to college, university fee hikes, and college students having to fight to get a class.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about another $2.5 billion cut to education – on top of $17 billion in cuts over the last two years.  The latest round of proposed cuts—which will affect health care for children and social services for the poor and elderly—have prompted educators, working families, community organizations, and union members throughout California to plan a “Day of Action” on March 4 to protest the cutbacks.

The purpose of the action, according to the California Teacher’s Association, is to raise public awareness of the devastating impact the budget reductions will have on California public schools.

Peter Somberg, Vice-President of Inglewood’s Teacher Association, says a bold showing is needed to “Educate the public on the far-reaching devastating impact the cuts will have on California’s public schools.”

Teresa Lewis, a parent with two children in the public school system, says she has been talking to other parents about the proponed cuts.

“We need to see that these cuts are not just affecting our children right now, but that the cuts will affect their future,” Lewis says. “The state of California public education is ranked, what, 45th, 46th out of 50 states in receiving funding?  How do we expect our children to be prepared when they won’t and have barely funded our schools?  Not all of us can send our children to private schools. Not all of us want to send our children to private schools.  What my children have access to now, what they learn now is what will determine how far they get in life.  I want better for my children.  I want them to be better than me. I want them to be able to compete.”

William Brown, a single parent, says that some sacrifices should be made in these bad economic times, but also wonders about the current plans.

“What happens when the economy turns around? Brown asks. “How will my child and other children, who have been pretty much ignored when you look at the funding for our schools, be able to function [and] compete in what everyone is calling a global society when they have not received the proper training because of the elimination of needed programs and the extreme cuts to education?”

According to the California Charter Schools Association, the number of students going to charter schools has consistently increased by approximately 20% on an annual basis in recent years.  Many parents believe that this growth is due to the fact that the K-12 public schools have neglected many of the enrichment programs that are attractive to parents and children in an effort to improve academic performance.  As a result, many parents would rather send their children to a charter or private school in search of a well-rounded education.

“Public schools are becoming more of a factory assembly line where our children are now numbers: come in, take your test, and get out,” said, Guadalupe, a charter school parent advocate.  “Offer my child everything and he will learn.”

A parent who did not wish to be identified said, too many of the standard public schools are focused on test scores to the exclusion of broader concerns.

“Because of the increase of charter schools, all some of these schools talk about now are the state test scores,” the parent said. “I took my daughter out of a school because they said their focus was only on the end of the year test scores, so basically, all my daughter was learning was how to pass the test.  Just because she scores well on the state test doesn’t mean she’s well educated.  It doesn’t make sense that my daughter can’t get what the private school students get. And the schools, because of the budget cuts, don’t care about anything but the scores. I am going to attend the March 4th Rally, and hope that together we can also let Sacramento know we want the same quality education that the politicians and the president’s daughters get.”

The issue of educational cuts affects everything from the special education curricula to the gifted and talented programs. While many are aware of the hardships and budget constraints for the special education programs, many are not aware of how the cuts have affected the gifted and talented programs. Last year’s report, “2008-2009 State of the States in Gifted Education,” from the National Association for Gifted Children (NACG) and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted, found that America’s 3 million gifted and talented students in the k-12 schools are being neglected at all levels in the United States.

The report cited several failures on the part of U.S. education: “A full fourth of states provided zero funding for programs and resources for gifted students last year, and in states that did provide funding, there was little consistency, with per-pupil expenditures ranging from $2 to $750.”

The report also noted “a shift in focus away from academic excellence toward ‘bringing up lower-performing students and maintaining adequate yearly progress’ and a shift in staffing away from gifted programs,” a result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of the President George W. Bush administration. “At a time when other nations are redoubling their commitment to their highest potential students, the United States continues to neglect the needs of this student population, a policy failure that will cost us dearly in the years to come,” said Ann Robinson, in a prepared statement quoted by the report.

NCLB, a federal legislation, mandates that if states receive federal funding for their schools, then those states must develop assessments or tests, in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades. This mandate is the result, many educators believe, of many schools neglecting the “Whole Child” educational approach to the “Test Scores are What Matters” model.

David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member CTA, says he is encouraging everyone to participate because the March 4 event because “…investing in our public schools and colleges is essential to building a stronger California for all of us,” Throughout the cities of California including the State Capital in Sacramento, marches and rallies will be taking place. In Los Angeles, there will be marches and rallies at many locations including Pershing Square in downtown L.A., then to the Governor’s Office, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State LA, Dominguez Hills, and other locations.  More information can be gotten at StandUpFor Schools.org.

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