A Day of Outrage: Teachers, workers and activists fight for rights

(All photos by Jesse Muhammad)

A diverse crowd of hundreds convened outside Houston city hall to express their displeasure with budget cuts proposed by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas GOP Legislature.

The “Texans Day of Outrage” rally was held on March 15.

Despite having an estimated $9.4 billion in its Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, the state of Texas is facing a $27 billion budget crisis. Gov. Perry is on the verge of cutting $10 billion in funding for schools and possibly laying off 100,000 school employees over the next several years. Gov. Perry has also come under scrutiny for refusing to accept $830 million from the federal Education Jobs fund that could be used for teacher assistance.

“We have worked closely with state leaders and lawmakers to balance the current budget, which includes using a one-time amount from the Economic Stabilization Fund to help our budget deal with the impact of the national recession,” Gov. Perry said in a statement.

Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia believes it is going to take more than that to address the issues. “It's a day of outrage today but quite frankly it's a day of outrage until the (Legislative) session ends at the end of May. We have to hold Governor Perry accountable,” she told the crowd.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said, “The basic function of government is to provide human services. The children we serve in H.I.S.D.—if this budget goes through—will not receive a decent education.”

Ms. Fallon, who is also a former teacher, warned that if the state cuts just 2,000 teachers that would lead to some 60,000 students being “hacked into someone else's classroom, trying to call it education but in effect what your teachers will be doing is crowd control,” she said.

To oppose the proposed education cutbacks, over 12,000 parents, educators and students also marched at the Capitol in Austin on March 12 during a gathering organized by Save Texas Schools, a non-partisan coalition.

Tea Party member gets violent

Local members of the Tea Party led a counter protest on March 15, several feet away from the main stage. The peaceful setting took an unforeseen violent turn when an elder White male Tea Partier rushed the stage and hit David Wortham of the Harris County AFL-CIO union in the face with a camera. Several rally volunteers took the attacker to the ground before police officers took him under arrest. (pictured below)

“We can have a peaceful demonstration and express your views but you do not have to get violent,” said Mr. Wortham. He told the crowd that he did not retaliate due in part to his attacker being a war veteran.

The brief skirmish did not detour speakers from continuing to address voting, healthcare, religion intolerance, the rights of workers, and proposed anti-immigration laws.

[Click Here to read my full report in The Final Call Newspaper]

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