Protesters, many from San Diego City College, interrupted an education funding discussion hosted by state assemblyman Nathan Fletcher outside his Miramar office on May 13.
Fletcher, a Republican, started the event by saying he hoped for “a calm conversation” about education and the budget plan presented a day earlier by GOP leaders in Sacramento.
Within 10 minutes, however, about 30 protesters began a competing conversation on a sidewalk adjacent to the meeting area.
Fletcher invited the demonstrators to take part in the discussion, but they refused.
“We’re not here to join their official propaganda event,” said Jim Miller, a City College professor among the protesters. “We’re here for the truth.”
“(Fletcher’s) budget relies on fantasy math,” said Miller, who believes the economic growth forecasts in the GOP proposal are too optimistic.
Fletcher said the Republican proposal safeguards education by focusing cuts elsewhere. In a May 13 opinion article in the San Diego Business Journal, Fletcher described recently hired state employees, pensions and prisons as “areas of state spending that are ripe for reform and saving.”
Before the protesters arrived, about 20 people had been in attendance at Fletcher’s talk, most wearing white t-shirts that said “Fletcher loves schools.”
Richard Barrera, a board member of the San Diego Unified School District, and Mitz Lee, a former member, also participated in the discussion with Fletcher.
If state politicians don’t agree on a budget soon, “we’re going to be looking at warehousing kids next year,” Barrera said.
“The frustration is at an all-time high with you guys (in Sacramento), Nathan,” Barrera said.
Jose Rodriguez, a student at City College who spoke for the protesters, called Fletcher’s opposition to a special election on tax extensions “undemocratic.”
Larissa Dorman, an adjunct professor at City College and San Diego State, said past budget cuts are already fostering a “deprofessionalization” among professors, who increasingly have been offered only part-time jobs with lower compensation and less stability than full-time positions.
“We want a democracy!” the demonstrators chanted. “We want to work!”
About 30 minutes into the event, the protesters walked into the discussion area to present Fletcher with a mock-up of a refrigerator-sized gold brick representing the disputed education funding. Fletcher entered his office, accompanied by a pair of officers from the San Diego Police Department.
Dave Ignell, an attendee of the Fletcher event, disagreed with the idea of preserving education funding. He said he thinks union-enforced seniority policies keep undeserving teachers on the payroll and that some union officials are overpaid.
“I’m just sick of throwing money into this messed up system,” Ignell said.
Earlier, Peter Zschiesche, a member of the board of trustees of the San Diego Community College District, was among the protesters that spoke. Zschiesche praised assembly bill 1130, which aims to raise California’s income tax on the top 1% of earners in the state by 1%.
Signs waved by the protesters said “Vote yes on AB 1130 — it’s your future” and “Tax the top!”