AUSTIN (KXAN) - A sea of supporters gathered Saturday afternoon at the state Capitol to ask lawmakers to stop impending cuts to education spending.
A pre-rally march stretched for seven blocks down San Jacinto Street. It was followed by a two-hour event on the South steps of the Capitol. Organizers estimated an attendance of about 11,000 people.
Jason Sabo, an organizers and one of the more vocal Austin ISD school parents in the recent school closure debate, told KXAN Austin News, "10,000 was our goal, our goal is broken."
The attendance levels easily make the rally the biggest one at the Capitol this legislative session, a session that has included massive cuts across almost every area of the budget. Today's attendees included school district employees, parents, community leaders and school district officials from around the state.
"Texas students have never faced a crisis like this, but there is help if our leaders have the courage to use it," said Allen Weeks of Save Texas Schools, the coalition organizing the rally, and director of Austin Voices for Education and Youth.
The legislature is considering proposals to reduce public education funding by almost $10 billion. In Austin, that could lead to cutting more than 1,000 jobs in Austin ISD, almost of half of them classroom teachers.
"On March 12, we plan to send a unified message to our legislators and our governor that its time to do everything possible save Texas schools and the children they serve," said Weeks.
Earlier in the week, Gov. Rick Perry said school boards were to blame for cutting teacher jobs, implying that districts could do a lot more to cut excess positions outside the classroom. Perry was not in attendance at the rally, but about a dozen lawmakers from both political parties were, in addition to some Austin ISD trustees, the Dallas ISD superintendent and the San Antonio mayor.
Organizers said schools and students in districts including Austin, Dallas, Denton, Houston, Lubbock, and San Antonio, among others. Every district in the state, to some extent, will be facing budget cuts if funding is not restored.
Protesters urged legislators to tap into the $9.3 billion Texas "Rainy Day" fund and sign paperwork allowing $830 million for teachers to flow into the state. The crowd also asked for school funding laws to be fair for all districts and their growing student population.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
A 55-year-old man died in a single-vehicle crash just after midnight Monday morning near Lakeway.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.