Fight to fund CSU

Timothy Sandoval

Faculty and students from all levels of education across California will protest Thursday at the Capitol and hold classes to teach the Legislature the importance of funding for public education.

The “Educate the State” rally will be hosted by the California Faculty Association. CFA will hold classes for the state Legislature and the public on the north steps of the Capitol from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re inviting all of the Legislature to come and have us educate them about the value of public education,” said Kevin Wehr, president of the Sacramento chapter of the CFA and one of the main organizers of the event. “It’s going to be a real classroom setting.”

Approximately 1,000 people are expected to attend the rally, “Educate the State.” The event may be one of the largest rallies for public education to have ever occurred at the Capitol, Wehr said.

“I think it’s going to be pretty historic,” Wehr said.

John Ryan, government major and president of the College Democrats, said he thinks students should join the rally to fight for higher education.

“We need to come together in mass and show the state Legislature that we are pretty fed up and are united in our opposition to fee raises on top of cuts in services,” Ryan said. “We shouldn’t be the ATM for the states budget problem. Students shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes that the state has made fiscally.”

The rally is part of larger movement of public educators. Across the state, educators have chosen to take furlough days and will be holding dozens of rallies across the state at high schools, colleges and public spaces for the “day of action.”

Wehr said this marks the first time he has seen public educators at all levels of the state education system rallying together, and is also first time educators will take statewide action.

Each rally across the state will have its own character, Wehr said. For instance, CSU Maritime Academy will hold a “die-in” in their main quad, where students will pretend to die to protest budget cuts. At Wilson High School in Long Beach, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine will be playing music after speeches from union leaders.

As for specific solutions, Fred Glass, communications director of the California Federation of Teachers, said the rallies will address the need for California to tax rich individuals and corporations, which could amass billions of dollars in revenue for public education.

“It’s not that you and I are not paying our fair share of taxes; we are,” Glass said. “It’s the people who have the most money and the most resources who are not.”

Glass said Proposition 13, the anti-tax legislation which capped property taxes at 1 percent of the property’s value, has hurt local funding for public education, causing the state general fund to bail out local public schools.

Proposition 13 also requires the Legislature to meet a two-thirds majority vote to pass any new tax in California. The state constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass a budget as well, making California the only state in nation to require a two-thirds vote for both any new tax and for passing a budget.

“That coupled with the fact that just over one-third of the Legislature are hardcore anti-tax ideologues is where the blame should go,” Glass said. “Every single Republican in the Legislature with the exception of one has singed a no-new-tax pledge.”

The CFA, along with Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, also proposed a severance tax on oil to fund public education in AB 656. The bill received no Republican support, forcing Democrats to remove the tax.

Timothy Hodson, director of the Center for California Studies, said the rally must address reality if it is going to succeed.

“It is not realistic to base the efforts on naïve assumptions like the governor and the Legislature are unaware of the impact of the cuts or that the cuts could have been avoided if someone had tried harder,” Hodson said. “Because of the two-thirds vote requirement, no budget and no tax increase can be passed without Republican support. Republicans are the key.”

Wehr said he hopes the Legislature will be receptive to the message.

“A majority of the Legislature have been educated in public institutions of higher education, and most have gone through public K-12.” Wehr said. “I would hope they would support their alma mater.”

Timothy Sandoval can be reached at [email protected].