Election Section

Why Cuts?

By Margot Pepper
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 11:03:00 AM

My second-grade students want to know the answer to that question and they’ve written a poem to elicit an answer. Each year my Spanish dual-immersion students at Rosa Parks produce laminated poetry bookmarks as part of our “Pepper Ink” labor unit. This year students chose their topic on the way back from the school library, after learning that their beloved librarian, Deborah Howe, might be in peril from the governor’s budget cuts—a deficit he cunningly created by rebating part of the vehicle license fee when he first took office. 

After they finished hand-decorating 150 of the colorful bookmarks, they were sent back unfinished from our district’s print shop on the deadline day. The attached note stated that because of the recent cuts, the district had run out of funds to pay the print shop for lamination. 

My students were heartbroken. The poem had taken them nearly two weeks to write, cut, edit and translate. Then Steven Westwood, a Xerox contractor for the Berkeley Unified Print Shop answered our saintly secretary Alicia’s calls. For days, he slogged through his impossible “to-do” list to come over to Rosa Parks and fix our brand-new laminator. Days turned to two weeks. Finally on a scorching Berkeley afternoon, he called. “Just let me pick up a lemonade for lunch and I’ll be right there.”  

After two days, the machinery was singing and tonight my students launched their bookmarks at the Open House. This is not the first time workers at the district Print Shop have performed beyond the call of duty. Last year, Ronnie González rushed the project to help us meet a deadline to sell bookmarks at a fundraiser for a top-performing classmate, Gerardo Espinoza, who had been deported to Mexico. Gerardo had since been hospitalized three times in his new rural Michoacán village for lack of clean water and proper nutrition.  

The poems Gerardo’s classmates had written appeared on the news and at a reading before the mayor of Berkeley. Thanks to Ronnie, we were able to sell so many of the bookmarks that the students’ Pepper Ink factory raised $500 to help pay for medicine and food for the Espinoza family, a sum which turned into well over $1,000, thanks to the Daily Planet and contributors such as the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.  

This year, the district will be hearing bids to see which company will run the district Print shop. My vote is with Ronnie and Steven—though I’m not exactly a Xerox corporation cheerleader. As for the Gobernator—paying what we used to for our destructive car registrations could defeat his covert agenda to dismantle our public schools.  


(For more facts about this agenda see “The Drive to Oust the Middle Class from Inner City Public Schools” http://urbanhabitat.org/node/1176 and “No Corporation Left Behind” http://www.monthlyreview.org/1106pepper.htm.)