Last Thursday, several thousand students, faculty, staff and families rallied on the steps of the capitol building and its neighboring lawns in Sacramento to demand that legislators continue to provide affordable and accessible public education.
Dr. Kevin Wehr, CFA Capitol Chapter President and one of the lead organizers of the event, said the top two goals of the rally were to educate the state legislature and to protect and expand kindergarten to university education.
The capitol rally was peaceful, with police officers present, but no arrests. Many people present attributed this to the facts that not only were there many adults and young children present, but the rally was carefully planned.
Those protesting higher education reductions cited the hundreds of classes cut in the past year, in addition to the cost per unit increasing.
“The idea that you can do two years at a junior college and then transfer is a complete joke,” said Aaron Milligan-Green, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Michelle Kile, a Sacramento State student and mother of four was there with her children. They skipped school as a family to rally against the budget cuts, which she said have especially resulted in a lack of supplies, particularly copies of class handouts.
“They’ll put the tests up on the [overhead] board now,” Kile said. “We fill our answers out on binder paper.”
There were also several hundred CSU students in attendance, said Brandon Sisk of Sacramento State. While budget cuts have not affected his ability to pay for tuition due to familial help and financial aid, he said he was present in solidarity with others.
“[Reversing the budget crisis] starts with getting students registered to vote,” Sisk said. “Once students register, we can vote the bastards out and replace them with more education-friendly candidates such as Larry Miles and Chris Garland.”
Faculty members were also present to voice their concerns regarding faculty layoffs.
The layoffs have led to professors who generally teach upper divisions having to teach lower division classes at larger class sizes, said Jim Shoch, a professor of government at Sacramento State.
Shoch’s current class has 40 more students than last semester and he claims to still have many students begging to be let in.
“We need revenue,” he said. “This can’t be fixed by budget cuts or by shifting the money around.”
The concern for equality and freedom has grown as the projected numbers for the amount of minority students in public education shrinks and the amount of hate crimes across UC campuses has exploded, said Tim Gutierrez, a graduate student in sociology at UC Davis. He cited the LGBTRC as a group trying to provide education necessary now, more than ever.
An intern at the capitol who preferred to remain anonymous emerged at lunchtime to watch the rally from the sidelines. He agreed that students are now being forced to pay more for less education; however, he doesn’t believe that the rallies are anything more than symbolic action and doubts this rally will have an effect on the outcome.
“[Students should still] continue the rallies,” he said. “Have them at least once a month.”
Otherwise, he claimed, the matter will stay out of sight and out of mind.
The next gathering at the capitol is scheduled for Mar. 22, 2010.
SHAWNA ALPDEMIR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction – March 8, 2010: Aaron Milligan-Green attends Santa Rosa Junior College, not Rosa Junior College.