Teachers were on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday reminding members of Congress who are yammering about creating jobs not to forget endangered public education positions.
Among them was Clarissa Barragan, a native Santa Anan who attended schools there, became the first member of her family to finish college, joined Santa Ana Unified School District as a teacher, served as a role model to her mostly Latino students--and was pink slipped three times in her first three years of teaching due to yearly budget constraints.
As a National Education Association/California Teachers Association spotlight of teachers who lobbied Congress this week reveals, Barragan was not hired back after getting her third pink slip last year. She's been a substitute teacher in K-12 classrooms ever since, hoping to latch onto a permanent job somewhere.
"Subbing is tough," she reportedly says. "Every day it's different students, different subjects. One day I'm singing with kindergarten children and playing with them on the floor, another day I'm teaching algebra."
Moving from school to school, Barragan at times encounters her old students.
"They say, 'Miss B, what happened to you?' I let them know it's not personal, I didn't do something wrong. It's hard to face those kids. But the state is saying I can no longer do what I'm passionate about."
Thousands of teaching jobs across the state may be lost unless--according the to NEA/CTA--Congress passes an emergency supplemental funding bill for education jobs.
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"Get that jobs bill passed" was Barragan's message to members of Congress. "Help teachers like myself continue to help our students become good citizens in our community. That's why I teach."
Also along for the trip up Capitol Hill was Peter Boyd, second vice president of the Santa Ana Teachers Association, who called passage of the teacher jobs bill critical for cash-strapped Santa Ana Unified.
"It looks like, without the jobs bill, 90 or 95 people will have lost their jobs and not get hired back in those two years," he reportedly says. "It greatly affects the stability of the schools. People are shuffled around. This is a dense, urban community where schools are the heart of the community. From 7 in the morning till 6 at night, schools are a safe place where kids can go."
His words take on greater meaning when one considers the rash of teens getting shot in the streets of Santa Ana lately.