Fifth-grader Ruthie Praskius is one of hundreds of Berkeley students who will head to Sacramento Thursday to protest some $5 billion in proposed education cuts, and she has a message for the governor.
“By taking away our teachers, you’re ripping apart our community,” she said. “If we don’t get the education we need, how will we run the country?”
Praskius was one of a handful of students who spoke at a “Save Our Schools” rally at Washington Elementary School Monday morning.
The state and local budget crises have hit Washington hard, with 13 of its 19 teachers receiving pink slips two months ago.
Berkeley Unified School District officials gave pink slips to 220 of its 652 instructors, but plan to take back as many as 145 by June, when the Board of Education must pass a final budget.
The district has already rescinded 25 notices, including one at Washington, and an administrative law judge rescinded a second Washington pink slip last week during layoff hearings.
The board, which has also dropped a pair of high school guidance counselors and raised some ninth-grade class sizes, must chop at least $4 million more from the district’s budget. Gov. Gray Davis, in his January budget proposal, called for $5 billion in cuts from public education. Next week, Davis will issue a revised budget that could include even heavier cuts.
A group of East Bay parents, teachers and activists calling itself “Education Not Incarceration” is organizing the May 8 rally. Fifth-grade teacher Hilary Mitchell, who is taking her entire class of 29 Washington students to Sacramento, said the children will make more of a statement than adults ever could.
“I want to see them say ‘no’ to these children,” she said.
“We’re questioning how we invest in the future for California,” added Rose Braz, director of the Oakland-based Critical Resistance, an anti-prison group. “Are our priorities building prisons, prisons and more prisons or investing in quality education for our children?”
Davis, in his budget proposal, called for a 1 percent hike in spending on the state prison system, while cutting almost every other major state service.
“We’re outraged that the ‘education governor’ could take these steps,” said Washington parent Judy Greenspan.