Educators ask for tax vote
Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/09/2011 07:03:09 PM PDT

Calling for a tax extension to help solve the state’s budget fiasco, a dozen teachers protested on Monday outside the Rancho Cucamonga office of state Sen. Bob Dutton.

The Haven Avenue protest was among many in California that kick-started a week’s worth of activities aimed to put public pressure on Republicans who back a cuts-only state budget solution.

“We don’t believe a cuts-only budget will stave off the devastating effects of what’s happening to education,” said Pat Mazzulli, president of the Fontana Teachers Association. “If we go to cuts-only, it’s going to be deep and create havoc in our schools.

In Redlands, teachers and others began their weeklong campaign on Monday by writing letters to state legislators.

After school, the Redlands Teachers Association and Redlands Education Support Professionals Association opened their office doors to allow those interested to come in, talk about the state budget and the state of emergency declared by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and write letters to state leaders telling them “no more cuts.”

“We have it set up so they can send off an electronic letter letting (lawmakers) know we need to keep these tax extensions in place and what will happen to education if they don’t,” said the support professionals president, Jolene Tripp. “We’ll face more cuts to the classroom, more cuts to students. (The solution) starts with keeping the tax extensions in place but it hardly stops there.”

Dutton, as state Senate Republican leader, has been at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, over ways to narrow the projected $26.6billion deficit. Brown presented a plan that included cuts to social services as well as putting an initiative on the ballot that would extend hikes to sales, income and vehicle taxes that are set to expire.

In March negotiations between the governor and Republicans came to a standstill after Dutton presented a long list of demands that Brown considered unreasonable.

“Sen. Dutton and Republicans provided a pathway to a budget solution in March that included enough Republicans to support putting tax extensions on the ballot,” said Dutton spokesman Larry Venus. “So we stand with the teachers.”

But Hank Mollet, vice president of the Associated Chaffey Teachers, does not consider the Republicans’ gesture genuine.

“It was very disingenuous,” Mollet said. “The agreement had 53 things on it, and it was given last-minute. They sort of made it impossible to agree to.”

Holding up signs that read “Education cuts hurt our future” and “Put kids first, honk if you care,” teachers from the Ontario-based Chaffey Joint Union High School District and the Fontana Unified School District cheered as motorists drove by and honked in support.

Chelsea Wislofsky recently returned to her job at Alder Middle School in Fontana after being laid off and out of work for a year.

“It’s scary,” she said. “You keep thinking next year it’s got to get better but it’s worse. When does it stop?”

The teachers believe one way to stop the bad news would be for lawmakers to place the tax extension item on the November ballot.

But Venus said even if the item was on the ballot, voters may not support it.

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