Modesto City Schools workers, teachers, managers and school board members used the district's first furlough day to campaign for Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.
More than 200 black-shirted members of the Modesto City Schools Coalition for a Common Future rallied along Coffee Road on Friday morning starting at 7:30, shouting their support for the initiative and better funding overall for education.
Breakfast followed, provided by the Downey Culinary Academy and paid for by Modesto unions. Then coalition members took stacks of fliers and spent the morning walking precincts, leaving campaign materials on doorsteps.
Modesto Superintendent Pam Able called the day historic, bringing together all the district's employee groups and elected officials for a common cause.
Board member Steve Grenbeaux said the effort itself is a good thing. "I think it's really helped the morale of the district to all be working together for a common goal," he said.
It was a positive way to use a furlough day, said Megan Gowans, executive director of the Modesto Teachers Association.
But as board President Rubén Villalobos said of teachers, "We'd rather see you in the classrooms."
While distributing fliers, coalition members talked with voters about the potential impact of midyear cuts if Gov. Jerry Brown's initiative does not pass.
The district predicts it would lose $13.2 million if Proposition 30 fails and the state follows through with budgeted cuts this fiscal year.
The school year, already five days shorter than normal, could lose an additional three weeks if the cuts come to pass, Modesto teachers have said. That would make April 30 the first day of finals this spring, and May 2 the last day of school.
Another initiative, Proposition 38, would bring far more money to schools, but that money would not arrive this year, organizers said.
"Prop. 30 is the only measure that stops the cuts, avoids the steep tuition hikes and invests in our schools and colleges starting this year," MTA President Doug Burton said.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.
WHO FOOTED THE BILL
DAY OFF WORK: The furlough day was planned in June as a cost-saving measure for the district. Schools were closed and employees were not paid.
SIGNS AND FLIERS: "Yes on Proposition 30" materials were paid for by voluntary donations (usually $20 a year) made by Modesto teachers, separate from union dues.
BREAKFAST: The unions paid for the repast of French toast and crepes, cooked by students in the Downey Culinary Academy as a fund-raiser.
T-SHIRTS: Local attorney Aaron Villalobos, brother of MCS Board President Rubén Villalobos, donated $1,000, and contributions from participants covered the rest of the $1,400 cost.
Source: Modesto Teachers Association
See video from rally below