Teachers Seeing Red Over Budget

LOS ANGELES -- Thousands of teachers, most wearing bright red shirts and some carrying signs, marched through downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to protest anticipated cuts in education funding and the possibility of teacher layoffs.

The teachers -- joined by parents and members of other unions -- marched from the Los Angeles Unified School District's Beaudry Avenue headquarters to Pershing Square, where a rally was planned before an expected march to the state building on Spring Street.

Michael Tauvar, a 34-year-old biology and chemistry teacher at Van Nuys High School, said funding cuts and layoffs would make class sizes even bigger, threatening students' education.

"We have to be the voice for our students," he said. "It looks like no one's going to fight for them."

The march was organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district's teachers. Some in the crowd carried signs with slogans such as "Cuts hurt kids" and "New leadership, same old politics."

Protestors chanted, and while some banged drums, others shook tambourines. One even carried an accordion.

Refugio Ceballos, 59, of Boyle Heights, wore an outfit bedecked with seed pods and feathers while carrying a conch shell and incense to protest cutbacks that he said would hinder students' education of indigenous cultures.

Ceballos said he offers lectures about pre-Columbian Native Americans at schools in South Los Angeles.

From a truck at the head of the march, UTLA President A.J. Duffy urged on the crowd, which was estimated at about 2,800 people.


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"Send a message, not just to this establishment, but to the governor and the Legislature that they cannot close the budget shortfall on the backs of students," he said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect education funding from feeling the full effect of the $42 billion state budget deficit," Camille Anderson, Schwarzenegger's deputy press secretary, told City News Service.

Schwarzenegger has proposed "a budget that fully funds Prop 98, gives education $4.6 billion on top of that and gives California schools $13.8 billion in categorical spending flexibility to allow them to spend funds on what they need most," Anderson said.

As the crowd left Beaudry Avenue, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Ronnie Crump said the demonstration had been peaceful, and no arrests had been made.

"It's a balancing act for the LAPD," he said, referring to the department's attempts to facilitate the protest while ensuring that rush hour traffic was able to flow through downtown.

District officials have said they are facing a budget deficit of at least $500 million, but the state budget shortfall could make the situation more dire. Earlier this month, the Board of Education authorized the possible layoffs of nearly 2,300 teachers, but Superintendent Ray Cortines decided not to make any mid-year layoffs.

UTLA teachers announced earlier this week that they would boycott efforts by the district to administer certain standardized tests they claim are not mandated by the federal government but cost the district millions.

The LAUSD released a study today claiming that the periodic assessments have helped boost overall test scores.

"While the teachers union has been claiming that these are unnecessary tests that teachers should not have to administer, the research makes it very clear that they give our strong, creative teachers information they can use to evaluate student progress and identify those students who need extra attention in specific areas," Superintendent Ray Cortines said.

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