Truckee students march at Capitol for school funding
If you happened to be watching the 11 p.m. news Tuesday on KCRA, you may have recognized some familiar faces from the community.
Shots of students in Diane Collinson’s, Nancy Schaffer’s, Renee Arington’s and Candy Blesse’s fourth and fifth grade classes from Truckee Elementary School holding large blue and white banners announced the March on Sacramento, organized by the Grass Roots Effort for Adequate Public School Funding.
Local high school students and parents held signs stating, “Legislate to Educate,” “We’re below average – Why,” “Schools are broke – No joke” and “Get Calif. schools out of the basement,” as Lucy Isbell, Matt Isbell and Anna Sitkoff delivered thousands of letters in little red wagons to Gov. Gray Davis’ representatives. Students carried boxes of letters down the halls of the Capitol building to Gov. Davis’ office.
The grass roots effort was organized by a group of local parents, students and teachers who are frustrated with the less than average funding California schools receive.
Tuesday began with hundreds of parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens from North Tahoe and Truckee driving through a snowstorm on Donner Summit to Sacramento.
“By the time we reached the Capitol building, the sun was shining,” said organizer Barb Cohen, “and the red and gold leaves on the trees made us feel like we were in early fall.”
The group was joined by marchers from San Francisco, Burlingame, San Jose and South Lake Tahoe.
“We lined up on the lawn, the media got their cameras ready, and we marched, chanting ‘S-O-S, Save our Schools’ to the North steps of the Capitol building, where a microphone and podium was waiting for us,” Cohen said.
Cohen, a Tahoe Vista resident, welcomed the crowd and introduced the speakers. Terri Sitkoff, of Homewood, spoke of the experience and of four generations in her family being educated in California public schools. Tahoe-Truckee High School senior Sara Ford also spoke, representing all of the hard work TTHS and North Tahoe High School leadership classes did to plan the march and letter campaign. Terri Breuner, a Truckee parent, also talked about being a parent of three school-aged children and the constant barrage of fund-raising activities.
A group of San Francisco teachers, from an organization called Teachers 4 Change, put on a skit of California “duking it out” with several other states for the lowest ranking in the United States in public school funding per student per year. They spoke of their need for “panhandling” for the money for school pencils and other supplies, Cohen said.
Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, a sociology professor from San Jose State University, and Amos White, deputy director of Eureka Foundation and a member of Kids First! Coalition, followed with statistics on how poorly California schools compare to the rest of the nation.
Celia Matta, the Chief of Constituent Affairs for Gov. Davis, received the thousands of letters at the podium, and some students read their letters out loud to her. Lucy Isbell, one of the campaign organizers presented boxes of letters to Matta with the understanding that Gov. Davis will respond to the group’s message, which will be published on the Internet site, burlingameparents.com.
Another march, co-sponsored with several organizations around the state, is being planned for May to coincide with State budget deliberations, Cohen said.
“This march went far beyond our expectations in terms of enthusiasm from the crowd, the commitment of the speakers and groups from around the state, and the educational value of this event on our community,” Cohen said.
She said the students who delivered the letters in the Capitol building were invited into the offices of Sen. Tim Leslie and Assemblyman Rico Oller, as well as the State Office of Education, where they spent an hour discussing what the needs of California schools are.
“All of us, adults and children alike, got a great lesson in how democracy works, and how we can effect the changes we feel are necessary in our governmental system,” Cohen said.
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