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Crowd gathers at Cashman Field to rally against education cuts

Union organizers protest cuts that could leave thousands in School District jobless

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Justin M. Bowen

Hundreds gathered Saturday, April 30, 2011, at Cashman Field to protest proposed cuts to education.

Updated Saturday, April 30, 2011 | 4:57 p.m.

Rally Against Education Cuts

Alec Miller, 6, cheers as Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, addresses the hundreds gathered Saturday, April 30, 2011, at Cashman Field to protest proposed cuts to education. Launch slideshow »

Education rally

KSNV coverage of union rally against education cuts, April 30, 2011.

Cashman Field

About 500 union members marched from Cashman Field to the Grant Sawyer State Office Building on Saturday afternoon while shouting "Save our schools" and "Protect education."

They were led by union organizers who carried a handmade, pine coffin that contained more than 500 letters written to Gov. Brian Sandoval in opposition to his proposed budget cuts to education. Officials planned to deliver the letters to the governor in Carson City.

The march came at the close of a two-hour rally in the Cashman Field parking lot, where state and local Democratic leaders and union activists spoke in opposition to the proposed cuts, which could result in the loss of $400 million from the Clark County School District and an estimated 2,500 jobs.

"The hopes and dreams of our future all rest in here," Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, said while pointing to a coffin meant to symbolize the end of education in Nevada. "We are not to be messed with." He opened the coffin and said, "let's get the message out to Sandoval, and God have mercy on him because (the budget cuts are) totally immoral."

Metro Police stopped traffic at one point and allowed protesters to cross, while some motorists honked their horns in support.

Earlier during the rally, organizers estimate about 1,000 educators, parents and students gathered in the parking lot of Cashman Field to protect their collective bargaining rights while protesting the proposed cuts.

Sandoval has called for an end to what is informally known as teacher tenure, the elimination of teacher pay scales based upon seniority and attainment of advanced college degrees, the extension of probation from one to three years for new teachers and a more aggressive effort on the part of the state's school districts to evaluate and fire teachers who perform poorly.

Rally organizers from the Clark County Education Association and the Service Employees International Union view the Sandoval plan as another push by Republican governors throughout the country to end collective bargaining rights for state employees, with Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker serving as the most visible advocate for the move, prompting weeks of angry protests in his state.

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, told the crowd Sandoval's budget is "balanced on the backs of our children, teachers, nurses."

He said he spoke earlier today in Las Vegas with civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Horsford said Edelman told him "some budget cuts don't heal."

Horsford said Sandoval and others focus on the pain of the private sector and of big corporations, rather than working Nevadans.

"What about the pain of our children, our teachers? The governor's budget as proposed will not pass on my watch," Horsford said, getting a loud applause.

"We never funded (education) in the first place. We should be embarrassed. I'm mad. I want to know from our governor why our children's teachers are not the priority. The top priority."

The state's Economic Forum will meet Monday to give its budget forecast. Sandoval's proposed budget was based off the Economic Forum's predictions late last year, but Horsford said he expects improvements in Nevada's economy this year could mean a less dire forecast. If that happens, the state's cuts could be less steep.

Protesters held signs that read "Greed caused our problems, not teachers," "Our children are worth it," "Sandoval the cannibal, eating teachers' rights" and "Will teach for food." One woman pushing a baby in a stroller carried a sign that read "Governor Sandoval wants my milk money."

Al Martinez, president of the Service Employees International Union of Nevada, started a chant among the crowd, saying "Show me democracy, we want democracy." He said teachers aren't against making sacrifices, but others need to share in those sacrifices.

"I think it's totally immoral what they're trying to do to our teachers," he told protesters. "We're not afraid to give up something, but we want everybody else to give up something."

SEIU members wore purple shirts with the SEIU logo, while Clark County Education Association members wore red shirts that read "Teachers support the future."

Click to enlarge photo

County commissioner and mayoral candidate Chris Giunchigliani addresses hundreds gathered Saturday, April 30, 2011, at Cashman Field to protest proposed cuts to education.

County commissioner and mayoral candidate Chris Giunchigliani, who is a longtime special education teacher, referred to those in the group as "fellow public employees."

"It's about solidarity and support. You deserve a thanks, coming here, working on behalf of young people," she told the crowd. "We cannot cut our way out of this mess. We didn't create this mess. It's global."

The coffin taken to the Sawyer building was near the stage during the rally so people could drop in letters meant for the governor.

"You have taken an extreme position that will do harm to so many Nevadans, Nevadans that you are elected to serve," the letter read. "Public education is a cornerstone of a civilized society, and our children are relying on it as a pathway to their own American dream. Your intransigence suggests that you have given up on the dreams of those children, as though their education is not important."

The crowd also planned to send a letter to state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who recently slammed Democratic leadership in the Senate and Assembly for failing to provide a tax plan. Roberson has said Democrats are trying to "demonize the Republicans for not caring about children or the needy or K-12 or higher education."

The letter to Roberson read, "Your vote represents many people. We count on you to make good choices as you represent us. It's a duty you must take seriously."

Click to enlarge photo

Hundreds gathered Saturday, April 30, 2011, at Cashman Field to protest proposed cuts to education.

Eric Smith, a teacher at Faye Galloway Elementary School in Henderson, noted proposals to cut budgets, increase classes sizes and shorten the school year.

"I'm mad as hell because of what they're taking away from them," he said.

Sandoval's proposed changes would alter Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. A pamphlet advertising the rally read: "288 We are not on the menu!"

Saturday afternoon's gathering is the latest in a series of public efforts by parents, teachers and school administrators to mobilize voters in opposition to the expected cuts and personnel changes.

Parents and teachers have met with administrators and school board members throughout the valley to develop strategies to counter the Sandoval initiatives, which have included letter-writing and email campaigns that have targeted Republican legislators who are viewed as potential swing votes on a Democratic-led effort to minimize the cuts by raising taxes.

Republican State Sens. Joe Hardy, Boulder City; and Dean Rhoads, Elko; and Assembly Minority Whip Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, have been targeted in the effort to oppose Sandoval's apparent plans. School district activists are also seeking to hold the vote of State Sen. John Lee, a Democrat who represents rural Clark County and is seen as a possible opponent of any expected tax increases proposed by State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, both Democrats.

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  1. "Oh, no....
    UNION PEOPLE? How AWFUL! & Educators, and the would-be educated? Hmmph. PROTESTING??? What RIGHTS have they? Thankless bunch, ALL. We give, give, GIVE to these leeches, and just LOOK AT THEM! Hands out, BEGGING for more. Don't they have homework? Chores? What's with all this free time?
    Must not have enough to do! Well, our Mr. Sandoval will put them straight! He's got it all worked out;
    NO FREE LUNCH for THIS BUNCH! He's cut them all off at the KNEES so we won't HAVE any educators OR the educated to worry about! Education just gives the little people ideas...that CANNOT BE GOOD. If they THINK & get EDUCATED? Well that could be very dangerous indeed for our society! Next thing you know, they'll TAKE OVER! We mustn't let that happen! These are the UNWASHED MASSES HERE! It'll be JUST AWFUL if they get smart."

  2. Well Duh! How about a state lottery to finance education.

  3. 100's?? I'd say a handful would be more accurate! Let's get ALL the facts right so the rest of the article doesn't sound embellished! Boo Hoo - the poor teachers - actually, the poor union thugs. Let's get a voucher system in this state and see how high education rises to the occasion. I guarantee the education our kids receive will be much better, with less kids per teacher, and they'll be learning a 2nd language at age 4 like my granddaughter is! Let's put the blame where it belongs people - get the unions out of our kids educations and maybe we'll all get somewhere!

  4. Hey, tasty...
    Get with the program.
    The RICH are STEALING from the middle-class & the poor.
    "People" aren't disgusted with UNIONS;
    A VERY SPECIFIC SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP is trying to BUST THE UNIONS, and use EDUCATION BUDGETS & PUBLIC EMPLOYEE WAGES to BALANCE THEIR BOOKS.

    The RICH GOT BUSTED.
    Instead of PAYING FOR IT THEMSELVES, they've decided to just TAKE IT BACK. Easy Peasy!
    JUST TAKE IT.

    You know that commercial on TV right now for DirecTV? With the guy wired up, sitting in the chair, while a PROXY does the workout? That whole "No pain, NO PAIN!" bit?
    THAT'S BRIAN SANDOVAL!!! the guy doing THE WORK is a proxy for AVERAGE NEVADANS, trying to eke out survival.

    http://adland.tv/commercials/directv-i-a...

    NO PAIN FOR THE ELITE.
    NONE. NADA. ZIPPO. ZILCH.

    That's one cute giraffe. I'll give him that.

  5. The Big Con...

    "Teachers, Public Employees & Unions have RUINED AMERICA!"

    REALITY:
    They didn't have ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT!
    You are falling for a CON GAME.

  6. dwinchester, maybe nobody ever taught you how to do research, or read a chart, but being a teacher, I'll help you. As of 2009, Nevada was 49/51 in education funding (Just in case you don't remember, we are counting all 50 states, and Washington D.C.). I even have the citation to prove it, from a reputable source:
    http://www.edweek.org/rc/articles/2009/0...

    It is people like you that drive me nuts. OK, you make a point about tenure and getting rid of bad teachers. But you're so sure that teachers are the problem (which we're not), you're willing to ignore actual facts and statistics to make your case. I'm a teacher, and a proud union member, and I can guarantee you I care about every child that walks into my classroom, even if their parents don't. You want someone to blame? Blame parents. They don't work with their children at home, they don't make sure their children attend school, they don't teach them how to behave properly. Yes, I have some good kids, and some really good parents, but the majority simply don't care.

  7. There might be other places teachers can get jobs. The take it or leave it idea Sandoval has might end up costing more money for recruiting, background checks and and training costs, not to mention lawsuits.

    Sandoval's experience was running a small state's DA office, that is about it. He wasn't the administrator either. Other jobs he had were make work jobs, merely figurehead jobs. (Of course the government gets a 80-90% conviction rate, because they usually have more money than the defendants.)

    Therefore, he washed up and his strategy is pushing things out 2 to 4 years when he will job hop somewhere else.

  8. Oh, to be a fly on the walls around the Governor right now! But in reality, do we believe for one second that this man cares about educators, public servants, or service workers? Or wait, I forgot, even the citizens of Nevada? Such people are not a part of his life, his circle of people. As a matter of FACT, Governor Sandoval has brought in outside high priced "experts," "advisors," and "counselors" to help guide him in his decision-making as Governor of Nevada. Very few who have actual access to the Governor are Nevadans. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

    LAWMAKERS need to REFORM THE STATE of NEVADA TAX STRUCTURE now!!! Please don't let another few decades go by to do it, as it is now. Fairly tax mining, gaming/resort, and big box store industries as do the other 49 states in the USA (just tax an average of the 49 states if you can't decide) and our revenue stream will soon meet the needs of the budget and become static in a positive way. So easy to do, but so hard when you are a career politician needing campaign monies for re-election.

    People can demonstrate and protest and Governor Sandoval and his followers simply don't care. Music on deaf ears. Some citizens might notice, but they need further guidance as to what to do, as contact their LAWMAKERS via phone, email, US Mail, or stopping by a field office to voice their concerns. The public citizen must be taught/or directed as to what they need to do in order for all this to be effective. Great job demonstators....people are taking notice!

  9. "Nevada spends more per student than almost any other state."
    By DwinChester...

    Such is the complete and total ignorance of your typical Nevada NutJob.

    Of COURSE the exact opposite is true.

    And the ignorant cheer.
    duh!!!

  10. Exxon is on course to make about $25 billion in profits this year. The oil executives decided to put a tax on gasoline that caused the price to rise about 40 cents/gallon in the past 5 months. The oil executives keep it all - nothing for Nevada except near minimum wage sales jobs.

    Why would any of these kids risk their lives for this kind of economic system? Does a person have to loose their legs to be eligible for an education?

  11. If you want to make a difference go to the recall Brian Sandoval Site and sign the petition.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/3/recall-...

  12. About 500 people marched. That's it? Looks like the whole deal kicked up more dust on this page than on the march.

  13. Take away more money from Nevada families and schools that would have been spent here. Take away sick leave and vacation days-which would not save any money in the budget. Yet, refuse to tax foreign mining corporations who write off their pittance 5% net profits tax and end up placing the bill for their costs on the same Nevada families whose pay is being cut to afford those tax breaks.

    See how this makes no sense? Foreign companies take our gold and silver for free, sell it overseas, and pay nothing for it because we are too busy beating our own people up.

    Until you Republicans stop attacking Nevada's working families and start fighting for our state, you will be Europe and Canada's best friends. Call 1-800-978-2878 and demand that the legislature dump the governor's budget and start over by taxing foreign mining corporations, brothels, and those who refuse to register their vehicles in Nevada. That solves a big part of our 2 billion deficit immediately.

  14. This is my question to the unions. How much more money do you want per studant, to make that person x % smarter than they are now? I know were basically last in the nation now, but how much smarter can you guarentee the students will be with the money? Why are we basically last now? Are you saying your not teaching well enough because your not getting paid enough?

  15. Hi Tanker,

    I do agree with you 100% that parents envolvement makes a huge difference in a childs education. I do not have any children so I do not know about the studant link thing. When I do have a child. I will deffinitly stay on top of his or her schooling.

    You've basically made the point that it's the studants and parents that's holding back their education. It not the money.

  16. Look at the unions and their mindless minions protesting something that is long overdue, cut budgets and get rid of waste. Taxpayers simply can't afford mindless trolls anymore and we're kicking your lazy pathetic lives to the gutter where you belong or move to California where your types are appreciated.

  17. Part of the problem here is perception.
    People blame teachers and unions for spending the STUDENT money, when in fact, the school site administrators make that decision, line by line!!!!

    Now, the educational industry is different than most industries, as retail, construction, marketing, etc., in that there are the elements of seniority and tenure. Every year, teachers are asked to indicate their "intent to work next year," with a letter/document, and then follow up with the actual signing of a document of commitment for the next school year. How many other jobs/professions/careers operate in such a fashion? To me, this is like psychological warfare, messing with a person's mind each and every year, to wit: year to year. Do you work that way? This might shed some light on the mental manipulations that goes on in education. New teachers are cheaper to pay, so the school district can afford to continue to pay and even give raises to administrators.

    Also, there is the factor of licensing. Does your profession require you to take on-going coursework (which costs you hundreds to thousands of dollars that you are NOT reimbursed) plus pay for license renewal periodically?

    Teachers are basically "hiring" the UNION to keep up with the ever changing political climate and laws/policies, make them aware of issues that affect them directly and indirectly, be their informal attorney (as a knowledgeable, skilled, and qualified representative at your side or on your behalf). Teachers DO NOT LIKE TO LEAVE THEIR CLASSROOMS. Teachers "collectively" have many of the same concerns. It is safe to say, that most every teacher protesting right now, is doing so due to: negative effects in their pay and what the students are not getting that they should be getting.

    Again, school site administrators have the ultimate power and decision on how and where the school's dollars/per pupil are spent, NOT the teachers!!!!

    This is WHY the UNION is important to teachers. The type of psychological manipulations that go on. Teachers rather be in the classroom doing their job than playing politics and being consumed with the legal mine field involved with CONTRACTS. We are teachers, not attorneys!
    Please understand.

  18. peaceperson writes: "I support the protests, but I also support proofreading your signs more carefully---the words "remember" and "living" are misspelled in the photos accompanying this article."

    Look closely at the picture and you will see the two misspelled words are on SEIU signs, not teacher signs.