Last week marked the State of Emergency Week of Action, led by the California Teacher’s Association (CTA). Teachers, students, parents and other educators protested at the Capitol in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions, which they believe will keep further cuts away from schools and public services.
The 325,000 members of the CTA served as the driving force of the actions that took place throughout the week in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego, as well as Sacramento.
According to Sandra Jackson, spokesperson for the CTA, a group of policymaking teachers and educators met in March and came up with the state of emergency campaign.
“They thought we should declare a state of emergency to bring attention to the public to try to pressure the legislators to pass the tax extensions, since they had already passed $12 billion cuts for the budget, but they did not do the other part of what the governor was proposing in his budget, which was $12 billion in temporary tax extensions,” Jackson said.
Brown’s extensions would apply to income, sales and vehicle taxes. A bulk of the CTA protests were fueled by state Republicans’ opposition to these tax extensions.
“Facing a $15.4 billion deficit, we are under no illusion that crafting a balanced budget is an easy task by any stretch of the imagination,” said Rep. Connie Conway (R-Tulare), in a press release.
“But the news that California has taken in $2.5 billion in unanticipated tax revenue in the past four months shows that we can balance the budget and protect the priorities of working families, like education and public safety, without raising taxes on overburdened Californians,” Conway said.
CTA President David A. Sanchez said he feels that the $14.5 billion deficit could not be removed by the $2.5 billion in unexpected, one-time revenues.
“Educators, parents and community leaders are fighting back against state budget cuts that are decimating our schools, public safety and health care services,” Sanchez said in a press release. “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.”
Various events took place statewide throughout the week, including teach-ins, grade-ins, sit-ins, rallies and protests, all in the effort to push legislators to pass Brown’s proposed tax extensions. According to Jackson, while CTA members were meeting with legislators in the capitol, teachers and parents were going to legislative offices in their own communities to rally support.
“Rallies were to call attention to the fact that something needs to be done and it is not business as usual, and that our state is in a state of emergency,” Jackson said.
At a rally on May 9, about 65 protestors were arrested for misdemeanor trespassing after being warned to leave the Sacramento Capitol rotunda after it closed at 6 p.m.
On Thursday evening, Sanchez, as well as 26 other educators, were arrested by the California Highway Patrol for refusing to leave the offices of Rep. Bob Dutton (R- Rancho Cucamonga) and Rep. Conway.
“Today, I took a stand for the millions of California students who are being robbed of their future,” Sanchez said. “I refused to step aside while California’s public schools and colleges go without the vital resources they need.”
“Our schools and colleges have been cut $20 billion in the past three years, and without action by California lawmakers, will endure another $4.1 billion in cuts next year,” he said. “Enough is enough. Our students deserve better and our state can do better.”
ANNABEL SANDHU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.