Anderson High School teacher Jeff Carr boiled it down to a simple resonating sentiment: “The cuts must stop!”
Carr described the fiscal storm brewing in Sacramento that threatens to further damage public education across the state and certainly impact the landscape in Shasta County.
“The cuts must stop!” he repeated, and the crowd of some 300 gathered at Redding City Hall to protest the cuts, joined in on the cry.
Shasta County Superintendent of Schools Tom Armelino addresses the large rally crowd Wednesday.
The audience was an impressive cross section of teachers, administrators, school assistants, parents and students from throughout Shasta County. The event was spearheaded by the Shasta County Education Coalition, a grassroots group formed to oppose the cuts.
Following $36.5 million in state funding cuts to Shasta County schools over the past two years, the county is now facing an additional $5.9 million in cuts, as proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2010-11 fiscal year budget.
The sun broke out for the afternoon rally, but a sense of urgency was palpable. School districts have issued layoff notices to 163 employees so far, which is translating to heavy losses in music, sports and art programs, library services, occupational classes, transportation services, classroom supplies and more.
Tenured teachers are being notified that they’re on the chopping block.
Wednesday’s rally included speeches by Shasta County Superintendent of Schools Tom Armelino, coalition and California Teachers Association member Cork McGowan, Shasta College President Gary Lewis, and several others.
“You don’t need me to tell you the stats, but believe me when I say I know these cuts will decimate public education in California,” Verdevale Elementary School third grade teacher Kathleen Haagenson said from the podium.
“The cuts have moved into our tenured employees … but students are the ultimate victims,” Enterprise School Board member Scott Swendiman said.
Added Grant Elementary School music teacher Jeanette Kyle: “I see 700 kids a week. These cuts mean these kids don’t get music anymore. It’s such a disservice to our kids.”
The event drew a crowd of some 300 supporters.
Many of the speakers acknowledged the reality that the recession has distressed more than just the world of education, but they warned that deep cuts now could have far-reaching consequences.
“Our schools need ongoing stable revenues now more than ever,” superintendent Armelino said. “The proposed cuts to education in addition to the cuts we’ve already received will be catastrophic for Shasta County students. These cuts directly impact students in the classroom, whether it’s through an increase in class size, laying off teachers, classified employees, administrators and other staff. Our schools can no longer take these cuts.”
Wednesday’s rally was part of a statewide movement to draw attention to the proposed cuts. Rallies were planned across the state for Wednesday and today.
In addition to the large crowd gathered to hear the speakers, several supporters holding signs lined Cypress Avenue and heard car horns continually honking in support. Signs read such things as “Schools are not broken, they’re broke,” “Cuts hurt kids,” and “Quality education is a necessity, not a luxury.”
A flier distributed at the rally listed a variety of educational ills, including the stat that California ranks 46th nationally in per-pupil funding. More than 29,000 layoff notices have been sent to California educators this year.
Armelino and the other speakers urged action. The coalition is encouraging teachers, parents, students, school workers and others to contact Sen. Sam Aanestad and Assembly Member Jim Nielsen and urge for “no more cuts to education” and/or “we must have adequate funding to maintain high quality education — find a way.”
Senator Sam Aanestad
State Capitol, Room 3063
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4004
Fax: (916) 445-7750
Assembly Member Jim Nielsen
280 Hemsted Drive, Suite 110
Redding, CA 96002