Fighting California education cuts

Oakland teacher Jessie Muldoon explains what's at stake with proposed budget cuts

THE CALIFORNIA Teachers Association (CTA) is coming out against proposed cuts to the state budget that would slash education and social services dramatically--and is linking May 14 "Day of the Teacher" actions to opposing the reductions.

While the budget isn't yet finalized, cuts of up to $4.8 million in public education alone are on the table. In districts like Oakland, Vallejo and Richmond, which have already been faced with budget crises and the loss of programs like art, social studies and science, it's hard to imagine where further reductions would come from.

The CTA estimates that the budget cuts are the equivalent of cutting $24,000 per classroom, laying off 107,000 teachers or slashing $7.8 million per district.

On May 14, union locals will be picketing and rallying for public education statewide. But the action will only be effective if it is part of a process of building a fight for education, not a one-off show of opposition. Districts that are negotiating contracts need to put fighting the cuts at the center of their negotiations, as the Oakland Education Association has done.

In the context of the housing crisis, economic slowdown and rising prices on food and gas, these budget cuts add insult to injury. The poorest school districts are already suffering from the bipartisan "No Child Left Behind" assault on public education. Relying on politicians, or short-term solutions like local taxes are going to be inadequate.

Some districts, like San Francisco, Alameda and San Leandro have held rallies, and even seen student walkouts against the cuts. Alameda's "Public Education Is Too Valuable to Throw Away" campaign is demonstrating the sentiment starkly: at rallies and public appearances, students and teachers are put into garbage cans to demonstrate their opposition to "trashing" education.

Demonstrating at the local level is important, but the campaign to defend public education in California needs to turn its focus to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and demand fair taxation of corporations and the wealthy, an end to the costly and illegal war in Iraq and an end to "No Child Left Behind."