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School funding draws thousands to downtown protest

May 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Protesters sent lawmakers a message against proposed education funding costs in a demonstration Friday.

Protests started earlier Friday in Redwood City in Northern California. In Sacramento, the chants haven't stopped all week long.

The Wisconsin-style protests at the Capitol never materialized as teachers behaved during business hours. But after the building closed at 6 p.m., it was a different story.

CHP officers arrested more than two dozen teachers Thursday night as they protested outside the offices of Republican leaders.

More than two dozen teachers including the president of the California Teachers Association, David Sanchez, were arrested for refusing to leave the Capitol building after hours.

He and others spent the night in jail and were given a hero's welcome when they bonded out.

The teachers had been waiting outside Republican lawmakers' offices hoping to talk with them. Teachers unions want lawmakers to extend current tax rates and avoid more cuts to education. Many have said that Republicans are "passing the buck."

"It's not just a problem for schools, it's a problem for the entire state's budget and so that's everything from public safety to the parks to health care," said San Jose teacher Don Dawson.

However, Republicans believe taxes are already too high, so it's time to cut more.

"When you don't tax people, they have the opportunity to grow more and spend more. So, the pathway we're providing, you know without taxes, we think will stimulate the economy even more," said Republican Assemblywoman Connie Conway.

United Teachers Los Angeles President A. J. Duffy said he believes all public services will die and public education will be devastated without the tax extensions.

Republican lawmakers have reportedly offered to extend the tax increases, but only for 18 months. In exchange for that, they want pension reform. The union says it will not negotiate on those points.

"When a legislator signs a pledge blanketly saying no tax increases, no tax extensions no matter what, then that to me, is a person that is deaf, dumb and blind," said Duffy.

"If we don't get the tax extensions, then public education in California will die," said Duffy.

Duffy asked Los Angeles Unified School District leaders to let classes out early Friday so teachers and parents can picket outside of their schools, then rally by the thousands in Pershing Square in the afternoon.

Thousands of teachers, school workers, students and parents are took part in the "State of Emergency" rally.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said the district moved a scheduled shortened day to Friday to accommodate teachers and students who wanted to take part in the rally and picketing beforehand.

There was a concern that some students may walk out from school even before the early dismissal in protest.

Regarding that concern, Duffy said, "Bottom line, do not encourage or agitate for walkouts, but if our students decide to do this, get out of the way and let them do their thing."

L.A.'s downtown rally began at 4 p.m.

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