Thursday, 30 May 2024

'Pink Friday' a call to action, support for education

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Martin McClure visits with one of his kindergarten students, 5-year-old Sean, at the Friday rally. McClure was among dozens of local teachers to receive pink slips this year. Photo by Maile Field.

 

 


LAKEPORT – A sea of people in various shades of pink descended on Lakeport's Courthouse Square Friday afternoon, rallying to show their support for education in these uncertain times.


Educators, parents, students, community members and a few canines festooned with pink ribbons were on hand for the “Stand Up for Schools” event, coinciding with “Pink Friday” – the deadline day for districts to give pink slips to teachers for the coming fiscal year.


The afternoon rally in downtown Lakeport was punctuated by the incessant honking of passing cars, their drivers hitting the horns to show support for schools, teachers and students.


More than 100 local teachers, administrators and classified employees have received layoff notices so far this year, and at this point just how many of them stand to be hired back isn't yet known.


But what is certain is that California is “racing to the bottom,” according to Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck, who told the more than 200 people crowded into the square that California is now ranked 47th among the nation's 50 states in per-student spending.


Here in Lake County, local schools are being forced to cut more than $5 million in the coming fiscal year after having cut out $3 million to help balance the budget last September, he said.


The result is growing class sizes and loss of vital programs such as art, music, sports, and after school intervention and tutoring programs. Some districts are planning to close their library doors for all or part of the day, he said, while some districts are closing entire schools. That's the case in Konocti Unified, which on Wednesday voted to close Oak Hill Middle School.


Geck said that now, more than ever, schools need stable funding, but that aim is being defeated by a broken state budgeting system, and legislators need to know the budgetary cuts they're making are undermining students.


The state, he said, needs to commit to longterm funding for schools. Referring to stimulus money coming from the government, Geck called schools “the real economic recovery vehicle.”


While California's schools are ranked at No. 47 for the amount of funding devoted to each student's education, the massive budget cuts will push California to dead last for per-student spending, Geck said.

 

 

 

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Community members rallied on Friday to support local educators in the face of massive state budget cuts that will impact education. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

 

 


At the same time, the state's schools are saddled with the highest standards and expectations, and schools need the resources to meet those high performance requirements, said Geck.


He added, however, “We can't get overwhelmed by the bad news.”


Action is needed, said Geck, as the state begins gearing up for a special May 19 election which will examine new funding sources for schools. Getting out the message about the importance of voting in that election is critical if future cuts are to be avoided and California's race to the bottom is to be pulled up short.


Geck said the community must stand up for students, “Because they're depending on us.”


Local attorney Doug Rhoades, in a gray suit punctuated by a pink shirt, said he supports spending his tax dollars on the future, in the form of students.


Rhoades said his own children are no longer in the school system, but he wants his grandchildren to be able to have the finest teachers and education they can. He said he would rather pay higher taxes if it meant having better education.


Lakeport Unified School District Board member Bob Weiss said the Stand Up for Schools event was the beginning of community organizing.


He challenged everyone in the crowd to think of 10 people who weren't there and get them to work for education.

 

 

 

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More than 200 people showed up in downtown Lakeport for the rally. Photo by Maile Field.
 

 

 


Weiss suggested that coordinated calls to Gov. Schwarzenegger's office and local legislators were in order, as well as a trip to Sacramento.


“We need a traffic jam down there,” he said.


Looking on during the event was Martin McClure, now in his 10th year of teaching.


A six-year resident of Lake County, last year McClure made the move from teaching in Ukiah to teaching kindergarten at Lakeport Elementary.


On March 6, he received a pink slip, a day after Lakeport Unified School District's board voted to lay off a total of 17 classified employees and teachers as part of a plan to address $800,000 in revenue shortfalls.


McClure doesn't know what to expect; it's not yet known whether the district will be able to hire him back.


“If they can they will,” the said. “They don't know. There's no money.”


The situation should become clearer after April 30, when the district holds kindergarten roundup and will get an idea of its kindergarten enrollment in the coming year. “That will be the first indication,” McClure said.


McClure said he really wants to keep teaching in the district. “I love teaching at Lakeport Elementary.”


He doesn't want to have to make the move to another school, but he's not ruling out the need to do that. If all else fails, McClure said he'll start putting together his resume.


McClure said it was uplifting to see so many people come out to support education. He's concerned that a lot of people still don't understand the budget games the state is playing at local districts' expense.


Legislators are trying to deal with the bad economy at the expense of education, “and that's just wrong,” McClure said.


Pam Klier, president of the Lakeport chapter of the California Teachers Association – who organized the Pink Friday event – said they had no idea so many people would come out to show their support.

 

 

 

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Eighth-grader Shao-jia Chang, 13, is tying a pink ribbon into the hair of eighth-grader Alice Crockett, 14. Both are Lakeport students. Photo by Maile Field.
 

 

 


What's next for teachers here and across the state?


“That's the big question, isn't it?” Klier said.


For years, a teacher shortage has been talked about, but with so many teachers no out of work, Klier said perhaps no such shortage still exists.


Many teachers affected by the recent round of layoffs – nearly 18,000 statewide, laid off as part of the effort to meet $11.6 billion in cuts to California's schools in grades kindergarten through 12th grades – still don't know what's ahead, said Klier.


Teachers and community members now need to figure out a way to channel the kind of energy that was in evidence on Friday afternoon, fortified with pink rice krispie treats and cotton candy.


Klier said a lot of attention will now be focused on the May election.

 

 

 

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Ric Hayes, a library clerk who is being laid off, shared his story Friday. Photo by Maile Field.
 

 


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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