Lesson in SF grade schools: protest education cuts

SF Public Press
 — Mar 4 2010 - 12:31am

On Thursday, San Francisco public school students as young as 5 will get a real-life learning experience about civic engagement — through protest.

Students from kindergarten through college plan to convene at Market and Powell streets in the late afternoon to protest cuts to public education during a coordinated political action called the Rally for California’s Future.

Several schools were planning to have students create picket signs in school. Maria Lourdes Nocedal, a third-grade teacher at Sheridan Elementary School said Wednesday that students sat in the parent room at Sheridan making signs and banners.

“Our big slogan,” she said, “is ‘save our students, save our teachers, save our schools, save our future.’”

The Ingleside school is one of several in southeastern San Francisco whose students are hoping to cut the day short to become after-school activists. They plan to convene at 3:15 p.m. at 24th and Mission streets for a head start on the 5 p.m. rally. Rally organizer and parent Rachel Lederman said that about 30 schools are participating in this feeder march, which will convene with other marches at its destination downtown.

Many students intending to begin the protest early were initially going to do so as a school-organized field trip, with fellow students and teachers, until the superintendent’s office issued a memo Friday banning field trips to the march, citing of safety concerns.

“The notice came out on the 26th, very late in the organizing, and since then we have had a lot more families come on board to be part of the march,” said Adrienne Johnstone, a teacher at San Francisco Community School. She said many families were “coming to take their kids out of school early.”

Johnstone, who has worked for the district for 10 years, called the memo “ridiculous,” adding, “We’re not going to take our lead from him on protesting the cuts that he’s administering,” she said, referring to Carlos Garcia, the superintendent of schools. Representatives of the school district did not respond to calls for comment Wednesday.

Current events, many lessons

Even before the planning started on this protest, teachers said they used the budget crisis to teach students in various subjects, from social studies to math.

“A lot of teacher have adapted the budget crisis into their curriculum,” said Matthew Hardy, director of communications for United Educators San Francisco, the teachers’ union. “For math classes you can do the budget numbers. In history classes you can learn how people have stood up to these types of things before. It’s applicable for all different subject areas.”

In the past week, Hardy said that he and others activists distributed more than 3,000 signs to schools for kids to design for the rally.

Students from Bay Area universities, such as San Francisco State, Cal State East Bay, UC Berkeley and San Jose State are planning to converge on the city to protest the cuts too, said Brigitte Davila, an organizer from San Francisco State who has been making preparations with elementary and secondary students.

“It’s at 5 p.m., so students are out of school, teachers are out of school,” Davila said. “Normally we don’t have rallies at 5 o’clock in the evening.”

San Francisco public schools, which are facing a $113 million cut in state spending, are expecting an outpouring of students showing their support. Cutbacks  mean not only larger classes and fewer teachers, but also less of classroom essentials.

“We have to ask parents for supplies, like copy paper,” said  Nocedal, the Sheridan Elementary parent. “And next year it’s going to be worse.”

Comments

Not once in the 3 times in 2 years when I have lost my job did I hide behind my daughter of the same age. This afternoon - as I was home trying to find work - a loud protest past my home from the elementary school down the street. The same school that my daughter will have to compete in a 'lottery' to have little chance of attending a few years from now. The protest is about budget cut the schools face - which I oppose. But in reality - it is about the jobs of the teachers themselves... If the teachers were on their way to the protest on their own, and not toting K-8 students to it with them - I would not have anything to say... But the line is drawn in my mind taking kids of an age who can not decipher for themselves what they are involving themselves in. So I made myself a counter protest sign to display as I knew they would have to return those kids back to the school they brought them from: 'Hide behind a child! Shame on you!' The kids filed by without remark thinking I was part of the parade... The teachers made comments like, "That's rude.." And one even stayed behind to tell me how much it was about the children until I reminded him that his human shields were getting away... Yes, I was home - unemployed and ticked off... These teachers - most are tenured and make ~$60K sure that sucks, but 200 days a year and ~ 7 hours a day - that's $42/hr... Plus bennies and a pension - in today's job market - that's not bad - considering.

Anyway - getting more about the news of this state-wide protest shortly after my own. High school kids in Oakland counter-protested... Because the cuts will be based on seniority - the teachers who 'cared' are the ones getting sacked... Did I feel vindicated - well yes. Kids who were old enough to see this for what it was took action. However there is more bad news - I'm still learning more about this, and I'm sure there will be more details on it soon. 100's have been arrested trying to close 880, and in Davis police used tear gas and bean bag bullets from shot-guns to re-open 80. And yes it may be about the education of these kids - but it is still really about their teachers jobs... Why don't these teachers educate them about what the bacon davis act - which ensures they all go to school in trailers made in Waco TX, and drains the budgets of this nation to the point that school teachers need to be cut. Or the math required to understand the lack of funds in the budget due to decreased revenue because of the loss of many other jobs, companies and foreclosure of homes that pay property taxes - you know 'root problems'. Sorry about ranting - but it is just plain selfish.

First, I agree the school budget cuts will affect teacher's jobs including my self and other public sector employment. Of course, the teachers are worried about losing their job because most of them have families to provide basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, etc. As parents, they are also concerned about their kid's education. However, I disagree with your comment that children "can not decipher for themselves what they are involving themselves" because my kids and other students on their OWN WILL asked to join the budget cuts movement, created our school's slogan (save our students, save our teachers, save our education, save our future), grabbed the bullhorns to chant the slogan, and discussed the effects of the budgetcuts to their education in my classroom. They have told me how their quality of education will decrease due to having more (25) students to 1 teacher. They are currently in a classroom with 13 students which I can provide them with more attentive one-on-one instruction. They have also told me that if they receive more attention from me then I can address their academic weaknesses and enhance their strengths. They understand that if they don't master writing, math, and reading by 3rd grade then they will struggle throughout their educational career. People especially politicians and you underestimate the youth and their ability to articulate their political views and analysis of the current issues affecting them. Have you really asked any youth what they felt and thought about the budget cuts?
As for your comments on teachers are tenured and make $60K..., your statistics only apply to teachers who make that money which significantly do not make that much and half are not tenured. Additionally, tenured only applies only if the district has money to pay for their position so if the district is in debt then these tenured teachers are also laid off. Apparently, you don't understand the work we do in and out of the classroom. We don't get paid overtime and the summer days off doesn't compensate the hours we work beyond the 7-hour work day. I have a second job to support my self and pay my debt. Therefore, I am a teacher because I believe in providing a better education for the youth.