Nearly 100 teachers gathered at Stoneridge Mall on Tuesday afternoon to participate in a "grade-in."
One of several actions to draw attention to a "state of emergency week," teachers from San Ramon, Danville, Pleasanton and Dublin graded homework and displayed placards that read "Ask me what I'm doing."
"We want to make sure that we've done something, that we won't just stand idly by for the budget that will basically kill us," said Ann Katzburg, a second grade teacher and vice president of the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA).
Katzburg and her colleagues were demonstrating their concern about a projected all-cuts budget, which could mean a potential loss of funding ranging from $10 million to more than $25 million for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD). The cuts could result in increased class sizes and a significantly shorter school year.
"The bottom line is we're at a stalemate when it comes to convincing republican representatives about tax extensions," said Laura Finco, a teacher at Stone Valley Middle School in Alamo. "Students are being used as bargaining chips."
In order to raise awareness about the need to extend temporary taxes, which are set to expire in June, teachers are participating several local demonstrations and an area-wide rally in San Francisco's Civic Center on Friday.
"The budget cuts that we're facing are unprecedented and our schools are at a point where we're falling off a cliff," said San Ramon resident Nancy Vandell, vice president of education and legislation for the 32nd district PTA. "We're trying to raise awareness among the public, help them understand that this isn't business as usual. If we don't extend the temporary revenue set to expire June 30, our schools are facing another $5 billion worth of cuts to education, on top of $18 billion worth of cuts that have happened over the past three years."
Vandell said the PTA is also spearheading a letter-writing campaign to those legislators who aren't supportive of the tax extension. Local legislators are supportive of the tax extension.
"We're trying to raise awareness among the public, help them understand that this isn't business as usual. I think what's important for the public to understand is they won't be paying any more taxes then they have in the past two years," she said.
SRVUSD teachers will also take turns "camping" in front of the state capital from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to "promote as much alertness and activity as possible so the legislators can see how serious we are and how concerned we are about an all cuts budget."
"As a teacher, I can no longer meet the individual needs at the level that I did before. We're doing more with less because we have great teachers, but it's taking its toll," Katzburg said.
California is already ranked 43rd or 47th (depending on the source) in per-pupil spending in the country. If taxes aren't extended, Superintendent Steven Enoch said the state could lose an additional $300 to 900 in funding per student.
"At some point, it could be soon, we will see the impact of these cuts. We have managed to hold them off because we've received federal stimulus money. We have been very prudent in the management of this district, so we've built up some reserves, butâ€¦ we would completely burn through those next year," he said.
"I think this is potentially a turning point for this state. I worry that we're perhaps being short sighted by not adequately educating our population in the way that this state and this nation is clearly going to need for our kids to compete in this world."