Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) teachers plan to travel to Sacramento on Wednesday, May 22, for the Day of Action, a demonstration in the capitol organized by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the California Teachers Association (CTA), and California Educators Rising to demand funding above the state minimum for California’s public schools.
Educators are attending to push for the state to address the public school funding crisis, and to support legislation that increases funds for public schools and reforms to state charter school regulations.
Berkeley teachers will join educators and students from across the state for the demonstration. A march to the California Charter Schools Association will take place in the early afternoon. Later on, those attending the demonstration will fill the Capitol Rotunda for the Red for Ed rally “to demand more funding from our public schools,” said Matt Meyer, vice president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT).
The CFT and the CTA will be organizing lobbying opportunities throughout the day. Members of these organizations will discuss issues such as funding for public education and charter school reform with state legislators.
BUSD supports this action and is allowing teachers to use personal leave to attend.
“Students, teachers, and the district all benefit when more money is going to public education,” Meyer said. In the past three years, $4.5 million has been cut from the district’s budget, with plans for more cuts in the coming year.
Dirk Wright, a robotics and mechatronics teacher at Berkeley High School (BHS), plans to attend the Day of Action because his salary cannot be compared to the cost of living in Berkeley.
Wright, who walks dogs for a family living in Rockridge, illustrated how little teachers make compared to others in the Bay Area. The father of the family he walks dogs for, an employee at Google, makes ten times more than Wright, and both men have been in their respective professions for the same amount of time.
“That has given me some perspective, because I know if I want to buy a house in this city, there are people out there who can offer at least [two or three] times more than I can. I will never be able to afford a house here,” he said.
By increasing base funding to public schools, students will get the education they deserve and BUSD will receive more funding, explained Meyer. Teacher wages have become a systematic issue, Wright explained.
If the union lobby resulted in a 12 percent wage increase, the district would not have enough money to pay that raise. When this occurs in some school districts, the district goes bankrupt, signifying the extent to which there is a lack of funding for schools. Teachers then risk public opinion turning against them, for asking for more money than available, said Wright. “I think I would support the bankruptcy [strategy],” he said, as asking for an unaffordable raise results in little to no change.
Anyone can attend the Day of Action. “We are all impacted by the disinvestment in our public schools and the time to make a change is now,” Meyer explained.