03/05/2010

Activists Launch 260-Mile March for California's Future

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On March 5, the day after thousands of students, parents and faculty across the nation carried out a successful Day of Action to Defend Public Education, seven committed activists traded protest signs for hiking boots and launched a 48-day, 260-mile March for California's Future.

CFT marchers, photo by David Bacon
Jim Miller, right, an AFT member and professor at San Diego City College, is among the participants in the 260-mile March for California's Future.

The group includes four teachers and a community college faculty member who are members of the California Federation of Teachers, and a probation officer and a firefighter. They are pounding a path marked 45 years ago when Cesar Chavez walked through the Central Valley to Sacramento to draw attention to the plight of farmworkers. This time, the focus is on the plight of all Californians, who are feeling the effects of legislative policies that are cutting public services to the core.

Sponsored by the CFT, AFSCME and a coalition of labor, education and faith groups, the march has three goals:

  • Reclaim the promise of quality public education and services; 
  • Rebuild state government so it works for everyone; and 
  • Restore fair and equitable taxes to invest in California's future.

The core group of marchers will link with other supporters all along the way—hundreds of firefighters, educators, nurses, in-home-care workers, students and police officers—who will help carry the message that California is at a crossroads and must act to address a $20 billion deficit and a damaged mechanism to raise revenues to maintain services.

The march will provide opportunities to register voters, hold teach-ins and town hall meetings, and educate more of the public and legislators about how Californians can reclaim prosperity.

A primary activity will be collecting signatures to put a majority budget measure on the November ballot. California is one of three states that require a two-thirds legislative supermajority to pass a state budget. This requirement has led to severe dysfunction year after year as a small minority of lawmakers hold the budget process hostage to ends not supported by the majority. The CFT is part of a coalition that is working to change the two-thirds requirement to a simple majority of 50 percent plus one.

"I am marching because we are slamming shut the doors of opportunity and gutting our infrastructure," says Jim Miller (pictured at right), a professor of English and Labor Studies at San Diego City College and a member of the AFT Guild, Local 1931. "We must restore majority rule to Sacramento's broken budgeting process and bring back a fair and equitable progressive tax system."

"Our current policies are driving students to prison instead of college," says fellow marcher Jenn Laskin, a reading specialist and teacher at Renaissance Continuation High School in Watsonville. She is a member of the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers.

The CFT has set up a special Web site to allow the public to follow along during the march.

March 5, 2010