Parents, teachers head to Austin to fight cuts

March 14, 2011 10:06:44 AM PDT
Houston ISD employees are on a mission. They're out to save their jobs and protect your child's education. A group boarded a bus Monday morning to take their fight to Austin. Bus loads of Houstonians headed to the capitol for 'Legislative Day.' They left Monday morning and intend to spend their day off working for their schools and your children.

The rallying started before sunlight.

"How do you feel about being up so early on spring break," we asked one supporter.

"This if for a worthy cause," said plant operator John Jernigan.

By the bus load, HISD staffers gathered to head to Austin for a little tough talk with lawmakers. Their message -- dip into the rainy day fund to support Texas schools or risk jeopardizing the future of education for generations to come.

"The legislature has a choice to fund our schools or they are going to have to teach the children at the capitol themselves," said President of HESP, Wretha Thomas.

Thomas is the ring leader of this group. They are your children's custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers aides. At least 15,000 school staffers from their union are expected to travel from all over Texas and meet on the steps of the capitol. This, just days after 11,000 parents and teachers rallied to save education.

"They went down there and kind of opened their eyes and when we get down there, we'll have their eyes completely open," said Thomas.

For Mary Bingham, saving school programs means saving her job. She rides the bus with special needs students.

"They're trying to cut out a bunch of programs that benefit the kids and if they do that then workers will lose their jobs," she said.

And like Dwayne George, many of them, have children who attend HISD schools.

"I'm really saddened," he said.

So even on this first day of spring break, HISD's projected $170 million budget shortfall is motivation enough to have gotten thousands of staffers out of bed and on the road.

"We're just going to keep on doing whatever we have to do, trying to make a difference," said Thomas. "Let our voice be heard. We are really concerned and we want what is best for our children."

The group has a full day of meetings planned. They will return tonight. They told Eyewitness News this is only the beginning of their fight to save the future of education.