AUSTIN — On the first official day of spring break, thousands of Texas teachers were hard at work, fighting for their students and their classrooms.
Almost 900 educators left North Texas in a convoy of buses before dawn Monday morning, bound for Austin with a message for state lawmakers: "Don't cut our schools."
Texas faces a major budget deficit. The legislature is considering education cuts of $10 billion, and that could cost 100,000 jobs statewide.
"I am definitely worried about it, and that's one of the reasons why I'm here," said parent Larita Shelton.
And that's why hundreds more teachers and their supporters drove down from Dallas-Fort Worth to go door-to-door at the State Capitol, urging lawmakers not to cut from the classroom.
"They have the opportunity to vote the right way; to make decisions that will save our schools, so we're here to say that to them," said Dallas Independent School District trustee Carla Ranger.
The concern is that if teachers lose their jobs, classrooms will get crowded. To drive home that point, teachers left cans of fish with elected officials as a reminder.
"Please don't stuff our kids into classrooms like sardines," said Malinda McKee of the Alliance/AFT teachers union as she handed a can to a lawmaker.
Teachers want the legislature to dip into the state's Rainy Day Fund, accept federal stimulus money and consider other cuts to prevent layoffs.
In all, North Texas teachers joined more than 4,000 from other parts of the state at the second such rally since Saturday.
This is the first time teachers could speak directly with legislators, but it's not likely to be the last.
No one disputes that cuts are coming to education; the question is how much?
Over the next couple of weeks, lawmakers will be making those tough decisions.