California students unite to protest budget cuts to education

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By Sai’da Green

Anthony Muniz, vice president of the ASRCC, expresses the importance of preventing budget cuts to education. (Khai Le)

By Sai’da Green

Three weeks before Governor Schwarzenegger was scheduled to submit his May revision for $5.4 billion in budget cuts to education, the Associated Students of Riverside City College Senate sponsored a rally located in back of the cafeteria to protest against proposed budget cuts to education

Picketers marched around campus shouting “Educate. Don’t hate” and “Education, not occupation” while holding up signs that said “Students for California’s Future.” Rallies were also held simultaneously at Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara college campuses as a part of a statewide protest against budget cuts to education.

On Jan. 10, Gov. Schwarzenegger released a proposed budget for 2008-2009 that will cut most state programs. It will have a large impace on education.

The proposal includes a suspension of Proposition 98, which guarantees a minimum amount of funding for public schools and community colleges.

The cuts are said to be the largest cuts ever proposed for California public schools. In addition to the proposed budget cuts for the 2008-2009 school year. The governor has also declared a “fiscal emergency” that will affect funding during this current school year, which means $40 million for community colleges, and $360 million for K-12 in budget cuts.

In an interview with Richard C. Paddock, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, university and college leaders said that “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to slash higher education funding by about 10 percent would deny education to tens of thousands of qualified students and have a devastating long-term effect on the state’s economy.”

For state funded colleges, the cuts would mean less financial aid for those who need it, fewer classes and a decrease in valuable student services like counseling.

University of California and Cal State University will have to reduce enrollment by 27,000 over the next few years. As a result, community college students hoping to transfer to a four-year university will encounter stricter admission requirements.

Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the California Community Colleges said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that “the governor proposed cut would mean that community colleges would not be able to provide classes for more than 50,000 students, and an additional 18,500 would not receive financial aid…the cutbacks would most affect low-income, first generation and non-white students, who generally depend more on university services, if we want to turn the economy around, this is the time to maintain our investment in higher education.”

The rally featured live bands, speeches from concerned students and food. Although few students showed up to the rally, members of the ASRCC Senate were enthusiastic and optimistic about the outcome of the event.

“I’ve been going around campus all day telling students about the budget cuts,” Josue Guerrero said. “We just want students to be aware of what the budget cuts mean for community colleges…this rally may not have a huge impact, but it’s a start.”

According to the, the total cuts to education will equal up to $5.4 billion.

This means that K-12 students will have bigger class sizes, less instructors and fewer extracurricular programs like sport and music programs. $331.9 million will be cut from University of California, $312.9 million will be cut from Cal State Universities and $483 million will be cut from community colleges in the 2008-2009 school year.

In a news release from the California Department of Education, Jack O’Connell, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction said, “While I understand the Governor and the Legislature have tough decisions to make, these cuts to public education impact the morale of our education professionals, will increase class sizes, and leave our schools with fewer resources just when we are asking more of them than ever before.”

O’Connell went on to say, “These budget cuts ultimately are a direct hit on the quality of education we offer our students.”

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