Thousands rally in L.A.
against education cuts
Teachers, parents, and students protest May 26 outside Los Angeles school board meeting against coming layoffs and other cuts in education in California.
BY WENDY LYONS
LOS ANGELESSome 350 students walked out of Santee High School here May 22 and marched three miles to the offices of the Los Angeles Unified School District to protest impending layoffs. They were joined by 50 students from Manual Arts High School. Another 40 students protested outside Lincoln High School.
The same day 3,000 state workers, union advocates, and home-care recipients demonstrated in downtown Los Angeles to protest proposed cuts to the state home-care program.
The protests were in response to an escalated assault on working people. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he would halt welfare payments, cut off health insurance to working-class families, and stop cash grants to college students. Threats have also been made to deport up to 19,000 undocumented immigrants in California prisons.
These are the latest proposals to balance the state budget in the wake of the defeat of ballot propositions that would have increased taxes and fees and cut social programs. The federal government has also refused to guarantee billions in emergency short-term loans to the state.
At the same time California treasurer Bill Lockyer insists that short of thermonuclear war wealthy California bondholders will be paid in full.
Official unemployment in the state is more than 11 percent. In many rural areas it is above 15 percent and in the Imperial Valley it is more than 26 percent. Unemployment among 16-19 year-olds is also over 26 percent. Many workers are working short weeks.
In the first quarter of this year home foreclosures in Los Angeles County rose 38 percent. In West Covina alone, two sheriffs deputies carried out 25 evictions in one day. The two cops say they evict 80-100 families a week.
Rising taxes, social program cuts
Sales taxes in the county have gone up to 9.75 percent; gasoline has an added 12 cents per gallon tax and is rapidly rising in price. Car registration fees are doubling and parking meters now cost $2 an hour in many parts of the city while there have been $459 million in transit cuts.
Schwarzenegger ordered more than 238,000 state workers to take two days off per month unpaid. About 2,250 teachers have received layoff notices and are waiting to see if they will be axed.
The new measures proposed by the governor would dismantle CalWorks, which serves more than 500,000 families with children, and eliminate Healthy Families, which provides medical coverage to 928,000 children and teens. Also to be chopped is CalGrants, which provides 77,000 grants each year for college tuition to low- and middle-income students.
In a heads I win tails you lose proposition, Schwarzenegger and state legislators placed six measures on the May ballot to solve the budget deficit. They were all defeated except Proposition 1F that prevents pay raises for legislators and statewide officeholders.
Proposition 1A and 1B would have restored billions cut from the schools in exchange for higher income, sales, and vehicle taxes and cuts in cost-of-living-increases for state payments. Propositions 1C and 1D would have cut funds for education unless a new lottery was approved and a childhood development program slashed. Proposition 1E would have drastically curtailed a mental health program.
The cutbacks to In-Home Supportive Services, which provides home care to the elderly, blind, and disabled, would reduce wages for thousands of state workers. In Santa Clara County, union workers earning $12.35 would have their wages cut to $8 an hour. In addition to the pay cuts, hours of service would be reduced.
At a community meeting of students, parents, and teachers May 21 to discuss the impending cuts, a representative of the school district said that as bad as the cuts in teachers would be it would only increase class sizes by an average of two students. Teachers responded by describing classes that have already grown to 40 and even 60 students.
Christian Lopez, a student at Santee High School, said, We need money for education. We dont care where you get it. Just get it. We are going to protest until we change this situation.
Eleanor García, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Congress in the 32nd Congressional District, explained that it is a dead end for working people to try to solve the crisis we confront in the framework of balancing the state budget. These propositions were like asking us which poison do you want to drink to solve their crisis, she said.
We need to unite and fight together for what workers need, not be fighting each other for crumbs. This is a crisis of the capitalist system. We need a revolution by workers to create a system that truly meets our needs. Thats what my campaign is about. Right now we need to fight together around the most immediate things we need.
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