Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink and a band of fringe groups have joined the California Teachers Association protest in Sacramento.

We are now in the midst of California Teachers Association’s desperation week or as they are calling it “state of emergency.” At the crux of the issue is that Governor Jerry Brown will unveil his revised budget on May 16, and deep cuts to the K-12 education budget could mean widespread teacher layoffs as early as next month. Californians are getting heavy doses of union demagoguery this week, as Brown works to forge a deal with Republicans who oppose any tax hikes.

As I wrote recently, there are many other ways to solve educational budgetary problems without raising taxes. However, none of my proposed solutions are acceptable to CTA because the union insists on maintaining the status quo lest its power be threatened in any way.

As CTA was making final plans for their week long protest, someone crashed their party — none other than Cindy I-am-sorry-but-if-you-believe-the-newest-death-of-OBL-you’re-stupid Sheehan decided to cash in on CTA’s event, figuring she could tag on to a group of sympathetic fellow travelers. (Ms. Sheehan, lest you forget, is a peace activist best known for her for obsessive hatred of George Bush, who set up camp near the former president’s Texas home to protest our involvement in the Iraq War.) Then, the radical Code Pink group and a few other fringe groups joined Ms. Sheehan.

While there were some arrests in the Capitol rotunda on Monday, it was a mostly uneventful day– marching, placards, etc. The fringies and CTA factions mingled briefly before splitting apart.

However, by Tuesday there was much more commingling of the tribes. While much of the CTA crowd tried to dissociate from the Code Pinkers et al, not all did (as you can see by the photos courtesy of Sacramento reporter Amanda Morello.) The teachers, mostly wearing “We are one” t-shirts, carried signs with predictable slogans like “Tax the Rich.” The fringies were a bit more strident, with one of their signs bleating “Outlaw the rich.” (Seems as if the two signs cancel each other out. How can you tax a group you want to outlaw? But I digress.)

By all news accounts, Wednesday was quieter. Perhaps the protesters are resting up for the big finale this Friday when teachers from all over the state will have local rallies where their strident demands will echo from the Mexican border to the Redwood Forests.

You might be wondering why teachers, who make up a sizable part of the CTA faction, are in Sacramento during the time that they are supposed to be teaching children. The answer is that many teachers are not as dedicated as they’d have you believe. As such, this week, thousands of children will have substitutes. And all this is happening the week many students are taking their yearly standardized tests.

But, from a financial standpoint, the taxpayers are covered. CTA has devoted over $1 million to pay for the subs.

In an unprecedented move, the Los Angeles Unified School District has buckled to union demand and will close all LA schools early on Friday, so that teachers can leave their classrooms and protest. Again, so much for children coming first.

And then yesterday, UTLA President A.J. Duffy released the following statement:

It has come to our attention, through recent actions and the rumor mill, that students in many of our high schools and possibly middle schools may plan walkouts for Friday, May 13, the day of our State of Emergency actions.

It is critical for all of our teachers to understand that we cannot encourage or condone such activity, as it could put our students in harm’s way.

Having said that, we in no way want to dampen the ardor of our students, their parents, or the community in their desire to step up and participate in actions and activities in pursuit of preserving public education and the jobs of their hard-working teachers and health and human services professionals.

Bottom line, do not encourage or agitate for walkouts, but if our students decide to do this, get out of the way and let them do their thing. Do not accompany them on these walk-outs, and trust that the authorities will protect them.

Talk about a mixed message. First we hear the union boss say we cannot encourage or condone but in the next breath we hear we in no way want to dampen the ardor of our students.

Can’t you just feel the nudge and see the wink as Duffy says this?

Children, you see, are the best weapon the teachers unions have. Trotted out at the right time, kids can make the unions appear as if they really care about them.

Oh please.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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