California teachers rally to prevent more pink slips

Hundreds of teachers gather in downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square on Friday, May 13, 2011 as part of a statewide campaign to rally against cuts in education funding.
Hundreds of teachers gather in downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square on Friday, May 13, 2011 as part of a statewide campaign to rally against cuts in education funding.
Mike Roe/KPCC

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Hundreds of teachers and students gathered in downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square on Friday to protest the thousands of pink slips being handed out to the teachers of Los Angeles' Unified School District. They were joined by thousands of other protesters in San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Rohya Prudhomme, 28, says she’s faced uncertain school budgets since her first year as a teacher at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex.

"Every year for the past three years, I’ve received a layoff notice and been laid off for two months without pay at the end of every school year. I could go and leave for a job outside of education like so many other teachers have done, but I want to work at this school in this community and so I wait," she said. "And honestly, the worst part of it isn’t living without money for two months. The worst part is having to tell my students that I’m leaving."

Teachers have rallied all week outside the State Capitol in Sacramento to prevent the layoffs of about 20,000 teachers statewide due to budget cuts.They’re asking lawmakers to extend some temporary taxes to pay for teachers.

"We just have to put our best foot forward for the kids. And you hope that when you say the message enough the lawmakers will get it." says Michelle Shipp, who teaches kindergarten at Newcomb Academy in Long Beach. "We only need four Republicans to change their minds and support the tax extensions to make the solution. We’re hoping by appealing that put kids first, not party lines, that they’ll make a change."

Educators are trying to pressure GOP lawmakers to support Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to extend a series of temporary increases in the sales, vehicle and income taxes. Without those, the governor has warned of deep cuts to public schools that could force thousands of teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and a shorter school year.

But Assembly Republicans countered with their own budget proposal this week in which they propose to spend about $2 billion from an unanticipated $2.5 billion in tax revenues on schools, which they say would leave them fully funded.

Education lobbyists, however, noted that the GOP's budget plan would suspend a $450 million annual payment that funds programs in some of the state's neediest school districts.

On Monday, Brown is scheduled to release his updated plan to close California's remaining $15.4 billion deficit.

Most of the demonstrations Friday had a festive atmosphere, with musicians performing and demonstrators blowing whistles, chanting and playing games. Signs reading "Tax the Rich" and "Bail out schools not banks" were common.

More than 2,000 demonstrators clad in colorful T-shirts gathered at the Capitol, which has been the focal point of the week's protests. They were ringed by a strong law enforcement presence a day after 27 teachers were arrested for refusing to leave the inside of the Capitol, a misdemeanor. Earlier in the week, 65 people were arrested on similar charges, although most were not teachers.

This story includes information and writing from the Associated Press