Thousands expected for Downtown education rally

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Thousands of teachers, school workers, students and parents are expected to descend on downtown San Diego Friday to take part in a “state of emergency” rally calling on the Legislature to maintain funding for education.

The rally at Embarcadero Marina Park North will culminate a week of protests spearheaded by the California Teachers Association. The protests began Monday in Sacramento with a rally at the state Capitol.

Simultaneous rallies are planned today in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Bernardino.

“The message is being sent loud and clear to lawmakers from all over the state — stop these cuts, extend current tax rates and stop decimating our schools and other essential services,” CTA Vice President-elect Eric Heins said.

Several Republican and taxpayer groups will hold a counter-protest at Embarcadero Marina Park North “in opposition to the California Teachers Association using our children to demand tax increases and oppose reform,” an organizer said.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to win Republican support for an election to extend a series of tax increases to avoid what he has described as the devastating impacts of an all-cuts budget. Teachers' union officials have said the cuts would slash $4 billion in state funding to education.

Republicans in Sacramento have opposed the idea, and that lack of support scuttled Brown's plan to hold a special election next month to put the issue to voters.

Brown is scheduled to release an updated budget proposal Monday, in part reflecting tax revenues exceeding projections by $2.5 billion.

Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, wrote a letter to Brown this week saying she and other Republicans hoped his revised budget would protect education funding.

“There is no doubt that difficult choices will have to be made, but budgets are about priorities,” Conway wrote. “By making our students a top priority, we can protect classroom spending without increasing the overall tax burden on hard-working Californians.

“… It is simply unnecessary if we use this recent windfall in tax receipts to spare our classrooms from deep cuts and prevent teachers from living in fear of additional layoffs.”

Hundreds of unionized San Diego Unified School District teachers are expected to take part in the downtown rally along with instructors from outlying districts.

The San Diego Education Association has been holding near-daily rallies at schools around the district in hopes of warding off teacher layoffs and other major spending cuts. Hundreds of teachers and staff members are on the chopping block at the end of the school year, and the Board of Education has approved increased class sizes, and has discussed cutting bus service to the legal minimum.

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