Gadsden education rally draws supporters, protesters

GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - With chants of "Save our schools!" and "Don't throw educators under the bus!" teachers and their supporters held a protest rally Monday afternoon at Gadsden's Moragne Park.

Hokes Bluff Middle School teacher Debbie Landers-Scott led the chanting, which got occasional honks from cars going by on Albert Rains Boulevard.  Lander-Scott said educators, parents, supporters, even business land community eaders were on hand, "saying that we love our public schools and we need you to help us."

The protest comes as Governor Bentley prepares to cut the education budget, and most other departments, in an upcoming budget and predicts tough times over the next two years.

The protestors represented all three of Etowah County's public school systems--Etowah County, Gadsden City and Attalla City, as well as those who work at Gadsden State Community College.  The rally had a strong union flavor, as representatives of the United Steelworkers local representing Goodyear employees came to show solidarity.  USW local president David Hayes is himself the husband of a school teacher.

Preston Nix has served on the Attalla Board of Education for 24 years.  He has his own union roots as a retired Goodyear worker, and carried a sign with the often-repeated refrain about not throwing "educators under the bus."

"We want the educators to know that we want our schools saved, our kids taken care of, and provided for," Nix said.  He also repeated another common demand: that Alabama's "corporate loopholes" be closed so large corporations can pay "their fair share."

Among those speaking at the rally were state Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), who told the group his priority is to save their jobs.  Others in attendance included state Rep. Becky Northgren, and two of the area superintendents.

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