califblog.jpg  California Teachers on Hunger Strike Protest in the Summer Teachers in California are involved in a determined struggle against a state government which is cutting education budgets both in the school system and in higher education In the Richmond and West Contra Costa Unified School District, 1800 teachers are working with a predominately poor working class community with large numbers of ethnic minority children. In that district, the management have announced that they are taking away health insurance from teachers - which had always been the quid pro quo for camparitively low salaries. This can represent a cut of up to a third in salary for young teachers with families. In addition they are increasing class sizes by up to a third - teachers mentioned class sizes as large as 47 in some cases. Other teachers said that they often had to buy their own teaching materials and that paper was rationed and vital machines like photocopiers out of order. Teachers from the United Teachers of Richmond California Teachers Association have been picketing a hotel this weekend where the district is 'training' unqualified people to 'teach' in readiness for what they see as an inevitable teachers' strike. Teachers on the picket line see this as a clear wish of the board to destroy the powerful teachers' union and break any forthcoming strike. It is no accident that in addition to taking away health insurance the board is also taking away hard won union rights like the right of transfer. To rub salt in the wound the training for the strikebreakers is taking place in a smart hotel - where for teachers any professional development takes place in run down school buildings and the strikebreakers will be paid over $300 a day whereas qualified substitiute teachers are paid a little over $100 a day. In other parts of California teachers have been on hunger strike against the cuts. In the Oakland school district a strike is also likely and leaders there are calling for a statewide teachers' strike. One teacher on the picket line said that the solution to the crisis was for all public service workers to protest together against the budget cuts in California which is one of the richest states in the US and according to one picket the 8th biggest economy in the world. To see a video about the protest in Richmond go to this link: http://www.blip.tv/file/2678555 And to see what the children think about it - check out the youtube clip on http://www.standupforschools.org/ Teachersolidarity would be pleased to hear from any teachers in California involved in this struggle and would be grateful for an email address wwhere messages of support and solidarity could be sent. Please email us at mary@teachersolidarity.com