Sacramento march for education

March 26, 2010

SACRAMENTO--Nearly 8,000 students, faculty and staff marched in the state's capital on March 22 to fight budget cuts to education. People traveled from all over the state to participate.

"We rode on the bus for eight hours," said Marvin Jordan, a third year history student from Cal State Northridge. "We left at one o'clock last night."

In what has become an annual event, the Student Senate of California Community Colleges organized a day in March to send students to the capital to protest the crisis of budgetary priorities. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest unions for faculty and staff, mobilized members in support of the cause, in addition to several California State University (CSU) student governing boards.

Demonstrators marched a mile through downtown Sacramento and converged on the capitol steps to hear representatives from Associated Students, union members and state legislators weigh in on important issues facing the state.

"Budget cuts are ruining my education," said Fptzie Sockel, a third-year economics student from City College in San Francisco. "I want to see California be number one in education, instead of prisons."

This past semester saw cuts to Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, course reductions, fees raised to $26 per unit (with the possibility of being raised to $30 next semester). Fees for both the CSU and the University of California (UC) systems were raised by 30 percent last semester, and 22,000 pink slips were given out to public school teachers across the state.

"Every year, my financial aid has been smaller and smaller," said a student named Jordan. "That is putting a lot of pressure on my auntie, who is struggling to pay for the house and support my education. "

Currently, several initiatives are being put forward which could tax the rich and go a long way to redressing the current budget crisis. This includes the California Democracy Act, which would change the undemocratic two-thirds majority vote for the state Senate in order to pass budgets; people are currently trying to collect the 1 million signatures necessary to get it on the ballot.

Additionally, there's a movement to repeal Proposition 13, which, when passed in 1978, changed the revenue structure for property taxes, effectively removing millions of dollars from state coffers.

WHILE THE demonstration was smaller than last year's, it still had a spirited mood of wanting to do something to change the current situation. Chants of "No more cuts! No more cuts!" echoed outside the capitol building.

Throughout the day, many different ideas and perspectives for the emerging education movement were voiced. Students, faculty and staff from Laney Community College, City College of San Francisco, Diablo Valley College and Skyline Community College formed a speak-out to talk about their experience with budget cuts and possible next steps for the movement.

"Today and March 4 have been really successful," said Gabriela Serrato, a fourth-year psychology and Chicano studies student at Cal State Los Angeles. "In the four years that I've been here, I've seen more students [become active]. Even students I would not have expected to be active."

Some participants in the march voiced disappointment in the response to the event. "Those [legislators] inside don't care what we say today," said one. "Inside, nobody seemed to notice we were there. We should have marched on the banks downtown."

Frustration in the state government's lack of decisive action seemed prevalent in many protesters' comments. However, some thought it was important to gather students, faculty and staff together from throughout the state as part of the fight to save education.

"Even though [the legislators] are ignoring us, I think it is important for us to protest and put out our problems for everyone to see," said Briauna Gaston, first-year journalism major at Laney Community College. "It's nice to be out here, meet other people and see that we are facing all the same problems."

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