California students and faculty protest education budget cuts on the steps of the Capitol

Students and teachers from Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy in Oakland, Calif. stand in front of the Capitol building in Sacramento. Last year KDA lost 11 teachers to budget cuts and they are afraid with more cuts to education more teachers may lose their jobs. Photo Credit: Ken Scarboro / Online Editor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Students and faculty from the California State Universities and California Community Colleges marched through the streets of Sacramento to the Capitol building to protest potential continuing cuts to higher education.

One of the students present was California State Student Association (CSSA) President Christopher Chavez. “It’s one thing to march at a rally and protest but we need to continue on the pressure,” he said.

Preliminary figures reported 5,000 to 7,000 people marched and participated in the rally yesterday, said Kris Cutting, state senator with Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) and security coordinator.

SSCCC and CSSA organized this year’s rally.

Crowds started to gather at 7:30 a.m. at the California Automobile Museum parking lot.

Organizers gave out signs to participants and groups started to rally together by banging cylindrical plastic buckets and singing chants in unison before the protest.

California Highway Patrol officers on horseback and bicycle along with the Sacramento City Police Department patrolled the area before the march began and remained present throughout.

Students, as far away as San Diego, convened on the capitol’s steps for the morning protest.

Thirteen of the 23 CSU campuses attended the rally, said Director of Government Relations Olgalilia Ramirez. They are San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, San Diego State University, California State University, Channel Islands, Chico, Dominguez Hills, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Maritime Academy, Northridge and Sacramento.

Just 21 CSUN students attended the rally. Five of them were part of CSUN Associated Students.

CSUN A.S. senator Amanda Flavin, and senator Melinda Hambrick organized the CSUN group to head to the rally at the state capital.

Some of the reasons the students could not come, Flavin said, were because they had midterms, couldn’t take the time off from school or the rally required too much time.

“I think the participation level is determined on how students see the budget cuts affecting them or how students perceive the marches and what they’re for,” Flavin said. “I think that if we had started planning earlier, there could have been emphasis on getting students to participate.”

Though California community colleges are losing fewer funds from budget cuts than the CSUs or UCs, there was a high density of CC students at the rally. Neighboring Santa Monica City College had more than 150 students from the community college attend the rally.

“They’re going to be cuts, that’s just the reality of our situation,” said Jurena Storm, student trustee for the Peraolta Community College District.

In Storm’s district alone the four community colleges could lose more than 11,000 students because of the proposed budget cuts.

“What we are looking for is that legislators realize we are people and not just numbers,” Storm said.

Crowds mixed in chants of “Let the people vote!” and “Education should be free!”

There are 112 California Community Colleges and 23 California State Universities. The governor’s budget proposal aims to cut $500 million each from the CSU and UC systems.

“The next step is that we need to make sure that we are continuing on the pressure, meeting with our reps and speaking for our students,” Chavez said.