‘Starvation diet’ for schools protested by California teachers, officials, students at Capitol

See Red for Ed rally at state capitol

California teachers, union members, students and school district administrators rallied at the state capitol May 22, 2019.
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California teachers, union members, students and school district administrators rallied at the state capitol May 22, 2019.

More than 1,000 California teachers, students and school district administrators marched in downtown Sacramento and rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, adding their voices to a statewide advocacy day for school funding.

The event, part of the national “Red for Ed” movement, brought together union members and school administrators who have sometimes been at odds, with teacher strikes unfolding this year in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Oakland. The groups put aside their differences Wednesday to push for legislation directing more money to public education

California is 41st in the nation in per pupil funding.

“For too long, we have been on a starvation diet for our schools,” said California Teachers Association President Eric Heins.

Some teachers and staffers from the Sacramento City Unified School District shared concerns about out-of-date textbooks, a shortage of physical education teachers and librarians, and worn-out portable buildings.

“I am at nine schools and I take care of about 3,700 students,” said Noh Le-Hinds, a school nurse and union representative in Sacramento City Unified. “We think healthy students learn better.”

Katie Carr, a special education teacher, said her elementary school doesn’t provide reading intervention for its most vulnerable students.

“These are kids that are already struggling with academics,” she said. “Books are a basic right, and kids deserve better. “

“It’s difficult to make ends meet as a teacher,” said Sacramento City Teachers Association President David Fisher. “We are in a crisis of losing teachers, because it costs a lot to become one. Paying your mortgage or rent are extremely difficult. ”

Many at the rally said they are concerned that charter schools are undermining the public school system.

“Charter schools laws are basically destroying public education, and we don’t think a dime of public funds should go to corporate charter organizations,” said California Teachers Association Vice President Elect David Goldberg. “Every school should serve the needs of the community.”

A package of bills backed by teachers unions and currently under consideration in the Legislature would limit the opening of new charter campuses.

Berkeley Unified administrators, expecting that the majority of their teachers could be absent Wednesday, ended the school day early for some students and encouraged parents to keep their children home.

Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jorge Aguilar attended the rally with school board President Jessie Ryan and others, and said California is not investing enough resources in education.

“The sad reality is that although the public demands it, the current financial structure for education in this state does not supply school districts with enough resources to pay for the educational experiences our students need, while also being able to pay our hard-working teachers, classified staff, principals and other school employees the competitive salaries and benefits they deserve,” Aguilar said in a statement.

Sacramento City Unified and its teachers union have been locked in a contract dispute while the district struggles to close a $34 million budget gap and avoid a state takeover. The Sacramento City Teachers Association had planned a second one-day strike for Wednesday, but last week postponed the strike indefinitely, citing an improved budget picture and a better climate for negotiations among the reasons.

Follow more of our reporting on Sacramento City Unified in Crisis

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.