Teachers in California today are launching the weeklong “State of Emergency” movement in order to pressure lawmakers into suspending any further education cuts.
The events, which are being organized by the California Teachers Association, will take place all across the state, culminating with large rallies in the major cities, including San Francisco, on Friday. The group has planned a variety of different styles of activism, including sit-ins at the State Capitol.
Unlike spontaneous displays of budgetary frustration in other states, California organizers planned in advance for the protest by running television and radio spots, according to David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association.
"It’s based on the frustration and concern of California teachers and educators and other classified folks… of how difficult things are getting in the classroom and schoolhouse," Sanchez said, describing the sentiment as "enough is enough."
In the last three years, California school funding has been cut by $20 billion.
Gov. Brown’s budget proposals calls for reducing education spending by $7.3 billion, and the governor has said that public schools could face at least $4 billion more in cuts. Additionally, 30,000 teachers have been laid off statewide in the past few years, according to the teachers union.
The cuts would mean larger class sizes and a shorter school year in a state that already has one of the shortest school years in the country.
In Michigan, protesters greeted Gov. Rick Snyder during Benton Harbor’s annual parade. The governor has become the center of much controversy lately due to his statewide budget that includes deep cuts in education, while providing billions in tax breaks for businesses, and his proto-fascist use of appointed “emergency manages” to reject, modify, or terminate the terms of any existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements and dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities.
Activists chanted “Recall Rick” as the governor passed.
Some of the protesters, who were led by the AFL-CIA, came from as far away as Kentucky.
"People are waking up," said Betsy Coffia, who traveled from Traverse City, Mich. to protest the parade. "Michigan didn’t have a Wisconsin, things just sneaked in behind us. We’re starting to realize that unless we the people start getting engaged, and make our voices heard, we’re going to lose what we thought we had."
Michigan Rep. Al Pscholka was also scheduled to appear in the parade, but declined to participate after he heard about the scheduled protest.
Pscholka said he was “deeply disappointed and angered” about the news of the protests, and while the protesters have a right to exercise their First Amendment liberties at the parade, “that doesn’t make it appropriate.”
There may be some sore feelings on the part of Pscholka due to the fact that his own constituents are trying to force him out of office via recall for a variety of offenses, including his role as the author of the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) legislation.
Conveniently, the new EFM rules could abet Pscholka’s finances.
In addition to being the state Representative from the area that includes Benton Harbor, Pscholka is a former aide to Congressman Fred Upton, a man who has deep ties into shoreline development efforts all along Lake Michigan including in Benton Harbor… Pscholka himself was the president of the Board of Directors of the Cornerstone Alliance in 2008, the group that developed the Harbor Shores golf course and luxury residential development that snagged some of Benton Harbor’s public park for its own use. This is a fact he conveniently left off his campaign site’s About page when he ran for Congressman.
The first use of the new EFM law to take over a city’s government was right in Benton Harbor, the area that Rep. Pscholka represents and where he has deep financial interests. And the first thing Harris did after dismissing the City Council was to rejigger the Planning Commission and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the two groups who make crucial decisions regarding shoreline development in Benton Harbor. Harris replaced some of their members with new members selected by him.
With that blatant conflict of interest in mind, it’s no surprise residents of Benton Harbor want to recall Pscholka. Here is a representative using, and in some cases changing, the laws to benefit his financial self-interest.