Pink Hearts Provide Powerful Symbol in Cleveland

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Pink Hearts in ClevelandScores of pink hearts, symbolizing the almost 600 Cleveland teachers who have received layoff notices in recent weeks, were a powerful prop on May 11 when members of the Cleveland Teachers Union and their allies staged a rally and a march to the school board meeting.

Despite a cold rain, the event attracted more than 600 people representing the CTU, as well as political, religious, community, student and parent groups. The lawn in front of the Cleveland Browns stadium was covered with signs bearing the "Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips" motto of the AFT's campaign to avert educator layoffs around the country.

After the rally, the participants marched to the school board meeting with everyone carrying a pink heart postcard bearing the name of a teacher who has been given a pink slip. The cards were carried into the board meeting and dropped one at a time on the desk of the board members.

In late April, the school board approved schools CEO Eugene Sanders' plan to lay off 545 teachers and 118 nonteaching personnel to close a $54 million budget gap. CTU president David Quolke says the union has made its own cost-savings proposals that would not involve hundreds of layoffs, but Sanders has ignored them.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted one teacher who will be laid off—Emmett Keller, an award-winning biology teacher at the Garrett Morgan School of Science, whose work with students includes building and maintaining a vegetable garden, and a hands-on composting project. "I feel like they cut me first and didn't look at other options," he said, adding that he is scaling back his July wedding plans after receiving the layoff notice. "Numbers equal lives, and I think downtown they sometimes they forget that equation." [Dan Gursky, Darrin Nedrow, Cleveland Plain Dealer]