Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbM1-SWGKd4
and the op-ed piece below regarding our activities in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Trek to Capitol in bid to bring state back from brink
Special to The Bee
Published Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2010
By Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers.
A Capitol protest rally is business as usual in Sacramento. There are demonstrations every day of the week. But the seven weeks prior to April 21 have been anything but business as usual for six people who have walked more than 300 miles for a cause: the future of the state they love.
On Wednesday, teachers and other public workers will hold their final rally of the 48-day “March for California’s Future,” which has wended its way up the Central Valley from Bakersfield. The six marchers, sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, and other unions and faith organizations are calling for restoring the promise of public education; a state and economy that work for all Californians; and fair taxes to fund California’s future.
Along the way, the marchers have been joined by thousands of others for a day or a week at a time. Strangers have fed them and invited them into their homes. They have spoken at local chambers of commerce and union halls. They have had their picture taken with a congressman and with farmworkers who marched with Cesar Chavez decades ago.
Near Manteca, an older couple in a beat-up minivan pulled off the road to talk. The driver, a white-haired woman in her 70s, said that two of her kids’ houses had been foreclosed, and one was now living with her. Three of her six children were unemployed.
At a meeting in McFarland, a young woman cried as she talked. A third-generation teacher, she had just received a layoff notice for the second year in a row. This year she was told there were no more silver bullets in the school district budget.
Gavin Riley, who retired from 37 years of teaching in Southern California last year, saw stark evidence of a rapidly growing economic divide along his trek. In Fresno, he said, “We walked through a Skid Row-type area, where people were living in cardboard and wood shacks underneath a freeway, and sleeping on the sidewalks. But when we got into some of the suburbs of Fresno, we found homes like you’d expect to see in Beverly Hills.”
No wonder. Since 1992, the top 1 percent of income earners in California – people who average $1.6 million per year – have nearly doubled their share of the state’s income, from 13 percent to 25 percent. At the same time, this group has seen its income tax rates reduced.
Although this is only part of the explanation for teacher layoffs, school closures and cuts in social services, it is a big part. Lost tax revenue due to loopholes for the rich and large corporations is costing the state’s general fund billions of dollars every year.
Irene Gonzalez, a juvenile probation officer, is marching because she works with kids on the other side of the state’s widening inequality gap.
Despite twisting her ankle a couple of weeks into the march, she has continued to walk because state budget cuts have made rehabilitating juveniles in trouble much more difficult for her.
“People think of them as bad kids, but most of them really want to do better,” she said. “They have just never been given the guidance, motivation and attention needed to succeed.”
Earlier this year, budget cuts forced a camp giving her kids firefighter training to close. “If we’re cutting resources for these kids, what is to become of them in the future?” she asked.
Jim Miller, a San Diego City College instructor and one of the marchers, said, “Californians generally don’t know who is and who isn’t paying their fair share of taxes.”
But, he added, “We’re educators. We ought to be able to get a conversation going about the causes of our problems and get people thinking about how to solve them.”
I have had the honor of marching part of the way with Jim, Irene, Gavin and the other three core marchers, Jenn Laskin, Manny Ballesteros and Dave Lyell. Their commitment to helping the people of California think clearly about our common problems will be celebrated in front of the Capitol on Wednesday.
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