Teachers continue Capitol protest with rows of chairs

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Julie Small

The chairs, set up by protesters in front of the California Capitol on May 11, 2011, represented 40,000 teachers California public school districts have laid off in the last three years.

In Sacramento on Wednesday California teachers continued their week-long protest of education cuts by setting up rows of empty chairs. The chairs represented 40,000 teachers California public school districts have laid off in the last three years.

Upon each one, they taped pink slips of paper with a multiplier of 100. The California Teachers Association’s Eric Heinz explained the math:

"Each of these 400 chairs behind us represents 100 educators that did not return to the classroom driving class sizes beyond capacity," he said.

Teachers want the legislature to reverse this trend by voting to extend a series of temporary taxes. Brown wanted to put those taxes on a June ballot so voters might decide how to plug the state’s remaining $ 15 billion deficit. When he couldn’t muster enough Republican votes, he said he’d try for a September vote. But Baldwin Park Elementary teacher Beverly Gonzalez says school can’t wait.

"We are running on two cylinders," she said. "We are limping along."

The California Teachers Association just named Gonzalez “Teacher of the Year.” The 18-year veteran says school districts are so broke they can’t provide the most basic supplies.

"Districts, they are not trying to hide money — they just don’t have it. And the parents depending on which district you’re in a lot of times don’t have the money to even send pencils. That seems like such a small thing. I’m giving out 5 to 10 pencils a day just so my students have a pencil."

Gonzalez buys those pencils herself. She also buys whiteboard markers, balls to play with at recess and books for the classroom library. She says she doesn’t mind when those books go missing because it means her students are taking them home to read.

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