Teachers, Parents, Students Unite for “Pink Friday”

Protests planned throughout state

Teachers, parents, students and others are gathering throughout the Bay Area today as part of a statewide series of "Pink Friday" protests to  oppose billions of dollars in state budget cuts to education.

The events are an effort to bring attention to the thousands of pink slips being given to educators. The California Teachers Association estimates that more than 26,500 pink slips have been issued statewide.

Today is the last business day before the March 15 deadline for school districts to issue the pink slips, or preliminary layoff notices, to teachers.

The state budget passed by the Legislature in February made cuts of more than 11.6 billion to K-12 education, according to the CTA.

Rally organizers around the Bay Area are calling on both legislators and community members to take action against the education cuts.

The Fremont Teachers Association is holding a protest March at 3 p.m. today that will end at the office of California Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont.

FTA President Jeff Poe said Torrico represents the district, but that "we'd like for him to support us in a way that doesn't intrude so deeply on us with these budget cuts."

Poe said that because of the state budget cuts, the Fremont  Unified School District board has proposed cuts of more than $17 million, necessitating the layoffs of about 200 teachers.

He said rally organizers would be urging protesters and other community members to contact Torrico and other legislators to voice their disapproval of the cuts.

CTA Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Vaughn will join the rally, which starts at La Pinata restaurant at 39136 Paseo Padre Parkway and will end at Torrico's district office at 39510 Paseo Padre Parkway.

In Santa Rosa, pink-slipped teachers will meet with Assemblymembers Noreen Evans and Jared Huffman at the State Building.

Andy Witthohn, a chapter services consultant with CTA, said the teachers are going to meet with the legislators to "make sure the federal stimulus money for education comes to the school districts so we can undo some of these layoffs."

Witthohn said 188 permanent teachers have received layoff notices in Sonoma County, along with 309 temporary teachers.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. today at the State Building  at 50 D St.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and local education officials planned to hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today at a San Jose school to discuss the budget cuts.

San Jose teachers will hold a rally later today to highlight more than 100 layoff notices that were sent to members of the East Side Teachers  Association.

ESTA President Marisa Hanson estimated that 129 teachers received pink slips. Hanson said the rally is an effort to "alert the community, because a lot of the time they don't seem to be paying attention if it isn't affecting them."

The rally is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. at the corner of Capitol Expressway and Quimby Road.

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is hosting a rally to oppose the layoffs of about 170 permanent and temporary teaching employees from the  Berkeley Unified School District.

Berkeley Federation President Cathy Campbell will speak at the rally, as well as school district Superintendent Bill Huyett and school board members Karen Hemphill and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler.

The rally will also feature performances by the Brass Liberation Orchestra, a progressive community brass band, along with a skit by local teachers that will include pink toilets to symbolize California's education going down the drain, according to Campbell.

The rally begins at 4 p.m. at the school district's Administration  Building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Fairfield teachers will also be picketing the budget cuts on several blocks throughout the city today.

Melanie Driver, president of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association, said hundreds of teachers will gather at various points of Texas Street, which goes through most of the city.

Driver said more than 300 employees of the Fairfield-Suisun  Unified School District face layoffs because of the budget cuts, and the  rallies are being held because "teachers are very angry about what's being done to public education."

Camille Anderson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Thursday that "in the face of the state's $42 billion budget deficit, the governor went to extraordinary lengths to ensure California's schools  were given increased funding flexibility so they could prioritize their spending on what they need the most during this national economic downturn."

"Pink Friday" events are also being held today in Vacaville, Napa, Milpitas, Pleasant Hill, Newark, and other Bay Area locations.

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