March 4 National Day of Action
No Cuts, No Lay Offs! Defend Public Education! were among the demands of thousands of students, teachers, staff and community members from all over California who turned out to protest at different schools and colleges. Actions were held at most of the 10 University of California (UC) campuses, 23 California State University campuses and many of the state’s 110 community colleges. Students at many high schools also joined in. Together protesters stood up for the right to education and demanded full funding and top quality education for all schools. The actions follow more billions in state budget cuts coupled with tuition and fee hikes of more than 30 percent. The quality of education is under fierce attack and youth are refusing to accept the wrecking of public education. Thousands marched in Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities and campuses, opposing efforts to destroy the California public education system, from kindergarten through university.
In Los Angeles, more than 3,000 protestors led by the United Teachers of Los Angeles and supported by different community organizations marched from Pershing Square/Hill St. down Third and Spring to the Federal Reagan building. Signs and chants expressed the disgust with the state government and its refusal to defend public education. At UCLA, 2,000 students massed at the Bruins Plaza and later 600 of them occupied Murphy Hall, the chancellor’s office.
At UC Riverside, hundreds of students marched around the campus condemning the cuts. UC Santa Cruz did the same. Buses filled with demonstrators went to Sacramento to bring the protest to the state capitol. Students, terachers and staff at Fresno in the Central Valley also demonstrated. They emphasized that California is #1 in prison spending nationwide and #48 in funding education.
Students and faculty from Berkeley also walked out and marched to Oakland. A portion of the demonstrators then blocked the interstate, in an effort to show students will not have their future blocked by cuts to education. In San Francisco, people rallied thousands strong at the Civic Center. Many high school youth participated alongside college students. They rejected the plan to layoff 900 K-12 public school teachers and staff in San Francisco. This is part of a plan to cut the San Francisco Unified School District’s budget by $113 million, or more than 25 percent!
The UC system has raised tuition from $7,788 in fall 2009 to $10,302 in fall 2010 for resident undergraduates. The system is cutting enrollment and introducing a wait list for the first time in its history. UC employees are taking weeks of furlough days and pay cuts of 4 to 10 percent. The Cal State system has lost one-fifth of its state funding in the past two fiscal years, a $625 million reduction, and students have faced a 32 percent tuition increase this year. The system’s 48,000 employees took a 10 percent pay cut through furloughs – two full days per month, across the board. The system is cutting 20,000 students this year.
Protesters brought out that in 2009 California taxpayers paid nearly $115 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also emphasized that the Obama administration’s new federal budget allocates $738 billion to military spending and just $122 billion to education —which includes significant cuts to special education funding, higher education, school improvement, and a 30 percent reduction in federal funding for educating youth living in poverty.
Throughout the state actions rejected the claim that there is “no money” for education. They stood firm in demanding that federal and state governments fully fund education and stop paying the rich, whether it is the banks or military monopolies!
New York City Actions Defend Right to Education
Youth and students throughout New York City joined thousands of students across the country in defending the right to education March 4. College students on more than 100 campuses in more than 30 states nationwide organized walkouts, rallies and other actions. Demonstrators opposed budget cuts, layoffs and tuition increases and demanded that public education from kindergarten through university be fully funded now.
In New York City Marches, rallies, walkouts and teach-ins all opposed continuing attacks on education as federal and state governments make drastic funding cuts. Many schools and campuses organized rallies and walkouts, including New York and Hunter Universities, as well as various City University of New York (CUNY) campuses. Protesters also targeted U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and the massive Pentagon budget, demanding cuts to war funding and increases in education funding.
Students at CUNY’s Queens College brought out, “The current proposals cut TAP assistance by 75 dollars per student per year; tuition can be raised each year (CUNY education used to be FREE you know); and hiring freezes, attrition, buy-outs, salary deferrals, raise deferrals, health care contribution increases, childcare closures, and other reductions are slicing the value of public education daily. This is not to mention stripping away student Metro Cards for our compadres in high school. Students, teachers, faculty, staff and concerned community members are joining together to take a stand for education.” Students and faculty organized their own alternative classes, including discussions on topics like CUNY’s history of struggle for rights, the effects of cuts on adjuncts and faculty, institutionalized racism, open admissions, and more. During the day, students in the film department showed movies about various organizing efforts.
Protesters from across the city then joined together for a rally at Governor Paterson’s NYC office. Protesters united around the following demands:
• Education is a right – Free, high-quality education for all
• Full funding for all educational needs
• Stop the school closings and privatization of public education
• Stop the cuts to K-12 and higher education
• Restore the free student MetroCard (for mass transit)
Like many other actions across the country, students and faculty made clear that this National Day of Action to Defend Public Education is part of a continuing efforts to strengthen organized resistance to attacks on education and rally all to defend the right to education.
UMass Boston Opposes Education Cuts
Students, teachers and staff at University of Massachusetts, Boston, rallied at the Campus Center to oppose cuts to education and tuition and fee hikes. Protesters brought out that Massachusetts has cut 37 percent of state funding for public education. UMass Boston is the only public university in a metropolitan area with more than 50 universities and colleges. The state has also demanded concessions from staff and faculty, especially targeting healthcare benefits.
After rallying and chanting for about an hour outside the campus center, demonstrators marched throughout the campus. They went in and out of campus buildings chanting and telling people to walk out of their classes and join in. They concluded at the administration building, demanding that their right to public education be met. A teach-in followed the demonstration. As students put it, “We are not done, we are only beginning.”
100 Campuses in 32 States Participate
Students teachers and staff organized rallies, walkouts, banner drops, teach-ins and more on 100 campuses in 32 states. Among the actions were:
• At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about 150 students organized to deliver petitions opposing tuition hikes and defending their right to education to the school chancellor. Police blocked their entrance into their own campus building and detained 15 people.
• The University of Illinois-Chicago and University of Minnesota organized actions opposing lay offs of staff and faculty and demanding cuts for administrators, or “chop from the top.”
• Michigan students converged at the Capitol in Lansing to demand that state scholarship funding be restored and opposed other attacks on education.
• University of Connecticut students have fought tuition hikes and succeeded in stopping a planned 7.5 percent increase. They rallied against increases of more than 5 percent planned for next year and demanded increases in state funding.
• In New Jersey students at Montgomery and Middlesex High Schools wore signs protesting cuts and aggressive U.S. wars and leafleted in and around their schools. At New Jersey City University in Jersey City a rally was organized and in Newark a walkout and rally took place.
• At the University of Maryland in College Park, students walked out of classes at noon. They gathered at the student union and then marched to an academic building that was decorated with posters reading “Demand nothin’ occupy everything.’” Students said more classes are being taught by adjuncts and graduate students who are not getting decent pay, while classes are larger.
• At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond students also demanded an end to cuts and emphasized that the quality of education is continually being lowered.
The University of Virginia has undergone three budget cuts totaling $32 million, or one-fifth of its state appropriation, since the start of the recession and faces a proposed $4.6 million cut in fiscal 2010 and 2011. The university has trimmed more than 160 positions. The staff has gone two years without raises. The College of Arts and Sciences, heavily dependent on state dollars, is trimming 7 percent of its 2,900 course offerings. Tuition has risen 12 percent to $9,672 at the University of Virginia in two years.
Protests also took place in Alabama, North Carolina, Texas and many other states.
On March 4, more than 400 students, community members and professors protested on the Park Blocks of Portland State University (PSU) in solidarity with a national call to defend public education. Several student groups in collaboration with student government organized the rally as a direct response to the proposed economic deregulation and restructuring of PSU.
Students feel that the state funded institution is augmenting corporate interests while diminishing the quality, affordability and access to higher education. Students demonstrated their bravery by walking out of class at 1pm to express their heightened level of disgust and indignation with the university administration.
Local drumming troupe, Powder Keg, led students, faculty and the public in a rigorous display of resistance to the neo-liberal capitalist vision of ‘education’ presented by the administration and board. The crowd proceeded to march across campus, occupying the hallways of the administration offices. There they presented the following demands agreed upon by students at all three of the universities in the Oregon University System (OUS):
1) Support securing the state funding level needed for all post-secondary schools.
2) Support a truly public mission in Oregon that ensures access to post-secondary education for all people in Oregon regardless of financial ability.
3) Support adequate funding for faculty and staff members to at bare minimum the national average.
4) Support the setting of tuition and fees by the state board of education and in the legislature.
5) Oppose the deregulation of the statewide governance structure currently fulfilled by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education of the OUS.
6) Oppose the public corporation model such as the one proposed in the Frohnmayer report or any close derivative.
Behind rapidly locked doors, a suddenly receptive administration expressed their interest in the student’s demands. At the end of the day students acknowledged their success and expressed their committed continuation to this ongoing campaign. March 4 actions simultaneously occurring across the nation highlight the stark reality of an American education system in crisis. Similar models for student engagement with this current educational crisis are being replicated all over the county.