“No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!” Hundreds chant as other protesters’ cries of “Save our schools!” and “Â¡Obama, escucha! Â¡Estamos en la lucha! (Obama, listen! We are in the fight!)” blend into the overall demand for political action, favoring education.
Megaphones and cardboard signs conquered the day as the scent of burning sage wafted through the air and thousands hit the streets of downtown Los Angeles, uniting against the increasing tuition and budget cuts to public education, as part of the statewide “Day of Action” on March 4.
“We are out here with thousands and thousands of our closest friends … to rally for public education,” said Cal State Fullerton political science professor Dr. Shelly Arsneault. “We’re going to march to the governor’s office … and we are going to let it be known that we are tired of budget cuts and we want education to be made a priority.”
Arsneault and a bus filled to capacity with CSUF students and faculty members came to LA to join the march from Pershing Square to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office on Spring Street.
“We have an economy in the toilet,” Arsneault continued. “We need to improve the economy, and you can’t do that with an uneducated work force.”
CSUF sociology major Adelyna Miranda commented on her reasons for joining the protest.
“We want better education … we’re paying way more and we’re getting less … and they kept raising our tuition,” she said. “They’re cutting back hours. They’re cutting back teachers … When we graduate it’s going to be really hard for us to find a job. It’s affecting us. It’s going to affect the future.”
Miranda further commented on the students who barricaded themselves into the Humanities building on March 3.
“They had their heart in the right place,” she said. “They’re fighting for a cause, the same reason we’re here today.”
Radio-TV-film major Elizabeth Martinez said the budget cuts have really hit home.
“It’s more expensive for me to go to school, and it’s just kind of hard to pay for school now,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not going to be able to finish.”
“I just feel like we have to do something about it, and this is the way to do it,” Martinez said of the protest.
The half-mile march to the governor’s office forced the closures of Hill, 4th and Spring streets. Upon reaching the Ronald Reagan State Building, protest organizers ended the scheduled protest with a poetry slam and statements from local teachers. Students and employees from Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal Poly Pomona and LA City College had joined in the protest.
Sal Castro, an education activist who inspired the massive 1968 East LA walkouts, attended the rally. Castro, who is now the director of LA Unified School District’s Chicano Youth Leadership Conferences Inc., said the protest was “beautiful” and would have been more effective in Sacramento.
“What has to happen now is we have to start organizing to repeal Prop 13,” he said. “We have to also repeal the Bush tax cuts, because there’s a complete imbalance in the economy. The poor and middle class are getting poorer and the very few rich are getting richer.”
California Proposition 13 was an amendment placed on the state’s constitution in 1978, which capped property tax in California. With many owners paying much lower rates than what their property is worth activists, like Castro, argue that this cuts down on money going toward education.
“Indeed, Proposition 13 marked a dramatic turning point in funding for Kâ€“12 public education in California,” reported Jennifer Sloan McCombs and Stephen J. Carroll for the Rand Corporation. “Revenues and expenditures per pupil had grown fairly rapidly both in California and nationwide until the early 1980s. But California fell well behind the nation by the late 1980s.”
Prop 13, Castro said, was a “culprit” behind such action as the student occupation of CSUF’s Humanities building.
“This is reminiscent of what happened during the Vietnam War,” Castro said. “I understand the frustration of the students, but … I wish the protest had been in Sacramento two years ago.”
Protests surged across all institutions, hundreds rallied at CSUF, University of California Irvine and University of California Riverside. At UCR hundreds walked across campus and took to the streets where police accompanied them.
Meanwhile, in the San Fernando Valley, five Cal State Northridge students were arrested with associate professor of sociology and American Indian studies Karren Baird-Olson, 73, suffering a broken arm during a protest at Reseda Boulevard and Prairie Street, the Daily Sundial reported.
Baird-Olson was standing with students who had formed a human chain and was allegedly thrown to the ground when police rushed the crowd, the Daily News reported.