What is the State of Emergency and what is this week of action all about?
California teachers are asking the Legislature to finish their state budget work for the future of our students and communities. Lawmakers cut $12 billion already this year from state programs, including huge cuts to colleges and health care for children. In our public schools, class sizes are averaging 35, even in some of the lower grades; vital student programs have been eliminated; and we’ve lost more than 40,000 education jobs.
Governor Brown tried to negotiate a special election in June, but a handful of lawmakers stopped that process. Our schools and students can’t wait for a November election or an election next year. We need to take action now, or our schools are going to spiral into even further chaos. Nearly every school district has cut about five school days off the calendar. College tuition has more than doubled. And if we don’t have the other half of this state budget solution — which is extending current taxes with no one paying any more than they are now — districts will be forced to shut down schools for another 10 days or even more. We will lose another 20,000 teachers. We can’t let our schools and our economy fall further down the rabbit hole.
Teachers are concerned about their students, their communities and the future of this state. Educators, students, parents and community members are asking lawmakers to finish the job they were elected to do and pass a state budget that is a mix of budget cuts and temporary tax extensions to protect our schools and other essential services.
Why is it called State of Emergency?
California has the eighth-largest economy in the world, yet it ranks 43rd nationally in per-pupil funding, has the largest class sizes in the country and ranks dead last in ratios of students to nurses, librarians and counselors. More than 40,000 educators and support staff have been laid off in the past three years. This year, another 20,000 teachers could be lost. California schools and colleges have been cut $20 billion over the past three years and are facing additional cuts if the Legislature doesn’t approve the tax extensions. Educators are fed up with seeing their students suffer from soaring class sizes and endless rounds of cuts to vital student programs. Most districts have already cut five days off the school year. We are in a state of emergency, and we must all work together to keep additional cuts away from public education and other essential public services. Our students deserve a better future.
Aren’t you exaggerating here? What state of emergency? Our schools are functioning and the economy is bad.
Our classrooms are hurting. California ranked 43rd in the nation in education spending even before this year’s dire cuts took hold. It ranks at the bottom in the ratios of students to counselors, librarians and nurses. Class sizes are soaring due to state cuts, and vital programs like music, art and career technical education are being eliminated statewide, along with summer school and access to libraries on campus. CSU may have to turn away 10,000 students this fall, and community colleges may have to turn away 400,000. Another 20,000 education jobs are about to be eliminated. Thousands of poor children and seniors have lost health care. Cuts to police and fire departments are putting the safety of our communities at risk. The emergency is very real.
What kinds of cuts are schools facing?
This school year, about 1 million students are in school districts that have reduced the school year by up to five days. And if we don’t have the other half of this state budget solution — which is extending current taxes with no one paying any more than they are now — districts could be forced to shut down schools for 10 days or even more. We could lose another 20,000 teachers this year. We can’t let our schools and our economy continue to starve. It’s time for lawmakers to agree on the immediate solution of tax extensions. Our students and the economy can’t afford to wait any longer.