Today is ‘Day of the Teacher,’ an annual celebration of the role teachers play in shaping the lives of our kids and strengthening our communities. Because of the hard work and dedicated commitment of educators in preparing our children for the future, they play a foundational role in a healthy society.
At the Capitol this afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and many others turned out to recognize the amazing work teachers do every day. But the event turned into much more than recognition of teachers – educators also showed their appreciation to other workers who provide the services that keep our economy moving and support all California families.
Under the theme “We Are One,” teachers recognized workers in the public and private sector, and called on the legislature to pass the tax extensions necessary to prevent further devastating cuts to schools, public safety, services that impact the poor and vulnerable, and jobs.
Over the last three years, K-12 education has been cut by $18 billion. Higher education has absorbed billions more in cuts. These cuts have a devastating impact on our kids and the state. If the Legislature fails to act on extended existing taxes, education would be subject to billions more in cuts that would lead to school closures, teacher and other school employee layoffs, educational programs eliminated, exploding class sizes and higher tuition at state colleges and universities.
At today’s event, empty chairs symbolized the tens of thousands of teachers who have already been laid off and the many more whose jobs are on the line if schools are forced to cut further.
We know the California Dream and promise is founded on quality education for all. These empty chairs don’t just represent the thousands of teachers who would be laid off. They represent thousands of dynamic forces in a child’s life. Are we here to fight for the teachers these chairs represent? Are we here to invest in the students of California?
The answer was a resounding “Yes” from teachers and other workers in attendance.
Shannan Brown, a 2011 California Teacher of the Year from San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento, said she knows just how hard the cuts have been on kids. Brown, who teaches 5th grade at Thomas Edison Elementary, said her district has already had its funding cut by 20%. The result is teacher layoffs, bigger class sizes and the elimination of home to school transportation, adult education and other services.
I’ve seen firsthand the devastation of budget cuts in the classroom. What our legislators do or don’t do will affect our students for the rest of their lives.
Brown and fellow Teacher of the Year Beverly Gonzalez of Baldwin Park urged the Legislature to take immediate action to pass the tax extensions and over the long term recommit to funding education.
But even though today’s the Day of the Teacher, educators like Brown and Gonzalez wanted to show their appreciation for other workers who make important contributions to our economy and lives of Californians.
The teachers honored:
- Margarita Maldonado, an information systems analyst with the Department of Justice
- Dan Silva, a criminal justice specialist with the California Emergency Management Agency
- Captain Jeff Helvin, sa Sacramento City firefighter
- DeAnn McEwen, a practicing nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association
- Sophia Perkins, A Medi-Cal program analyst with the Department of Health Services
- Ken Jones, an In-Home Supportive Services caregiver
- Chris Barton, a bartender at the Sacramento International Airport
California Teachers Association newly elected Vice President Eric Heins said that by standing together, teachers and all workers can take back our state to ensure that schools, jobs, and the services our families rely upon are taken off the chopping block.
We’re sharing our day of appreciation with union members and workers who make this state great. We are one.
The event was part of the State of Emergency week of action organized by the California Teachers Association. Actions to highlight the devastation of budget cuts are occurring in Sacramento and all over California. The week of action will close with large rallies in Sacramento and five other cities on Friday. For more information on how you can get involved, go to www.castateofemergency.com.