Fresno teachers staged a “walk-in” Thursday, as opposed to walking out of schools in protest, to take part in a national push for better education. For California schools, that means the passage of Proposition 55, according to the Fresno Teachers Association.
Teachers at Calwa Elementary School, southeast of Fresno, rallied outside before the bell rang to call for smaller class sizes and more nurses and support staff – something they say won’t happen unless the state continues to hike taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents.
Proposition 55 – on the Nov. 8 general election ballot – would maintain Proposition 30, which passed in 2012 and imposes a personal tax increase for people who make more than $250,000. The majority of the money from those extra taxes goes to public schools and community colleges, with some also benefiting health care.
If the measure does not pass in November, the tax increase for high-income taxpayers will end in 2018. That would mean $4 billion in state education cuts, according to the California Teachers Association.
Without it, we’re going to see more cutbacks like we saw before, and that’s not good for children.
Fresno Unified teacher Celeste Stroud on Prop 55
Celeste Stroud, a teacher at Calwa Elementary, said she’s afraid that if Proposition 55 doesn’t pass, instructors will again face layoffs and cutbacks like during the Great Recession, which began in 2008.
“Without it, we’re going to see more cutbacks like we saw before, and that’s not good for children. And what’s not good for children is not good for our country,” Stroud said.
While Stroud is rallying for the state ballot measure, she’s not so sure about the passage of a local measure for education dollars. Measure X – a $225 million bond measure also on the ballot – would maintain the local tax rate and would go toward Fresno Unified schools. Some opponents have voiced criticism about administrators’ handling of the money. Fresno Unified’s no-bid construction contracts paid for by previous bond dollars is currently under a federal investigation, and some trustees on the school board have said district leaders are not being transparent enough about the usage of the proposed bond dollars.
“My personal pushback comes from a lack of transparency at the top,” Stroud said. “If you can’t tell me what you’re going to do with it, as a taxpayer I take issue with that. As an educator, I say, ‘Where’s my buy-in?’ ”
We don’t want to go back to the days of layoffs.
FTA associate executive director Mo Kashmiri
Calwa teacher Felipe Lemus says he’s “seen the trauma that goes in schools when you cut back on services,” and while he’s skeptical about Measure X, he’s hopeful for Proposition 55.
“Fresno Unified has been in the spotlight for so many negative things right now. I’m afraid the public won’t pass (Measure X) because they think it won’t be used correctly. But I think 55 will pass because it’s already in place, and we just want to continue it,” he said. “You have to cut back somewhere, and our students seem to be the ones that always get the short end of the stick.”
Teachers across the country held “walk-ins” on Thursday in a show of solidarity to better public education, coordinated by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools – a national organization. Across California, that mostly meant teachers rallying for Proposition 55.
“Instead of a walk-out, it’s a walk-in because we wanted to show we are in support of our parents and students,” said Mo Kashmiri, associate executive director of FTA. “We don’t want to go back to the days of layoffs and cutbacks. We’re going to fight for our students and our profession. We’re sick of not being No. 1.”