music in the park san jose

No one in downtown Morgan Hill on Wednesday at 4pm could have
missed the massive crowd of teachers and other public employees
swarming down the sidewalks, many in matching, colorful union
shirts, utilizing their right to freedom of speech and their right
to protest government action or inaction.
No one in downtown Morgan Hill on Wednesday at 4pm could have missed the massive crowd of teachers and other public employees swarming down the sidewalks, many in matching, colorful union shirts, utilizing their right to freedom of speech and their right to protest government action or inaction.

The Morgan Hill protest rally began with marches down Monterey Road from Britton Middle School through downtown, with protesters toting signs and rattling noisemakers. Many drivers along the way honked car horns and yelled support for the marchers.

“The children always should come first,” maintenance and grounds foreman Peter McKenna said during the rally. “What the governor is proposing does not put our children first. Not the funding, which makes providing necessary services difficult. And the idea that he supports contracting out some services, well, our parents feel comfortable in that they know who is on our campuses. Our workers are fingerprinted, they are reliable, they are trusted.”

The rally, organized by the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers (MHFT), was arranged to coincide with statewide “Lobby Day.”

“Why we are here today is to make a statement to Gov. Schwarzenegger about the importance of supporting public schools and public employees in Morgan Hill, San Martin, San Jose and our state,” MHFT President Donna Foster told the approximately 400 on hand. “We stand together today in unity with our brothers and sisters who are gathering in Los Angeles and Sacramento in a statewide protest and lobby effort to send a message to the governor that education should be supported, not denigrated.”

An estimated 10,000 protesters flocked to the state Capitol carrying signs and banners. Twenty–two Gilroy School District teachers made the trip to Sacramento and several others joined the rally in Morgan Hill.

MHFT members are upset, Foster said, that the governor has reneged on his promise to fully fund Proposition 98, which was approved by voters. Education officials, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, said Schwarzenegger promised to “refund” the “borrowed” $2 billion.

MHFT and other public employee unions also are concerned about proposals to alter employee pensions, teacher tenure and to contract out certain services.

“He touts an increase in spending on education but while he is giving with one hand, he is pulling back 2 percent of these funds in a pass-through for pension payments to each and every district in the state,” Foster said. “In Morgan Hill, that is $594,000 each and every year.”

“The truth is that the governor promised to fund $2 billion of Prop. 98 money to school districts. He has broken the promise to our children in Morgan Hill and to the children of California.

“We as the electorate voted for Prop. 98, and we want to see our schools fully funded. It is shameful that California, the fifth largest economy in the world, funds its schools 44th per capita in the United States.

“The governor is pushing for a special election that will cost the state over $80 million. What is our answer to this election? No!”

The public needs to know how the governor’s proposals will affect the state’s children, the elderly and disabled, as well as public employees, speakers said.

Rodney Gonzalez said he and two fellow members of the American Federation of Teachers came from Santa Cruz and San Jose to participate in the Morgan Hill protest because they believe the public needs to know what is “in the works.”

“We believe it is very important to bring this to the attention of the public,” Gonzalez said. “All these political decisions are being made, and yet many people aren’t aware. If we don’t stay informed, don’t let the politicians know how we feel, before we know what happened, these proposals will be passed, and we’ll be stuck with something we can’t live with.”

Home healthcare worker Starr Nkwno said the public needs to know how the other end of the spectrum – older Californians – will be affected by the governor’s agenda.

“The ISS (In-home Support Services) cuts will hurt our seniors and people with disabilities,” she said. “Some people will be forced into nursing homes, which will actually escalate costs to the state. Nursing homes cost $5,000 per month, while ISS provides the services for a lot less.”

Foster said home health care workers currently earn $10.50/hour; the proposal by Schwarzenegger would reduce them to minimum wage, or $6.75/hour, which would force many to find other employment.

State public employees and union members are also upset about comments by Schwarzenegger calling them the “monster that must be fed” and educators are upset about his assertion they were lying about the Prop 98 agreement.

“You don’t expect, when you go into teaching, to be compensated in a manner commiserate with corporate employees, you accept that,” said Sobrato High School teacher Christina Filios. “But what many people don’t realize, when they talk about our retirement, our pensions, is that we do not qualify for Social Security.”

Foster also addressed pensions in her speech.

“The governor wants to eliminate secure pensions for all public employees,” she said. “Because public employees do not receive Social Security, this pension is all we have for our retirement. Pay is low in California, and the cost of living is high in California.

“In Morgan Hill, the median price of a home sold during April was $865,000. Beginning teachers make $38,495 a year. Public employees are becoming second-class citizens under the Schwarzenegger administration.”

Marilyn Dubil covers education and law enforcement for The Times. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or phoning (408) 779-4106, ext. 202.

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