Students protest against new rainy day amendment proposal, demand money is needed now

Ilian Cervantes-Branum

In response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s rainy day fund constitutional amendment proposal in January, activists rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday and demanded re-investment in education, social services and healthcare.

The $5 Billion More campaign demands the state prioritize funding for communities still feeling the effects of the recession. Protesters opened umbrellas during the march and chanted “it’s raining now.”

“If we make education too expensive for people to go get a degree then it’s going to defeat the purpose,” said Paul Song, Courage Campaign executive chairman. “So I think that is one of the best investments that we as a state can make is to bring tuition down for everyone who wants to get an education.”

Song said the rainy day fund is a good idea in principle but it does not consider the people that are in need today.

“To suggest that everything is sunny and rosy, that we can scroll this money away when people are still suffering,” Song said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Elia Gianava, a community college student from Los Angeles Trade Technical College, spoke at the event representing the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.

“Our dreams are being deferred right now because we don’t have funding,” Gianava said. “Sometimes I have to go on the bus because I don’t have money to fill up my tank. Sometimes I can’t buy that book because it is way too expensive. We need this help so we can help each other and we can help ourselves.”

Gianava was recently accepted to Sacramento State, UC Berkeley and UCLA and said she has personally experienced the effects of cuts to higher education with crowded community college classes and expensive books.

“They are the representatives that we chose,” Gianava said. “We wanted them to help us, and they are not helping us. All that money is not going back to us. It is going to the big corporations that have millions of dollars, and here we are struggling just to get by.”

California already has a state budget reserve on the November ballot, but Democrats want to replace it with a new rainy day fund, which would put away surplus money from capital gains tax every year.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner said she supported putting money aside because it is crucial in a state with a large percentage of low-income population.

“We know that California has a very high rate of people who are poor,” Skinner said. “We need to have a safety net in this state.”

As part of the rally, individuals also marched to a nearby Chevron office to demonstrate support for SB 1017, a tax on oil extraction that is projected to increase higher education funding by $2 billion if passed.

Magali Sanchez-Hall, speaker for Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment and UCLA public policy major, said she is concerned about the future of her children’s education.

“They are cutting the funding for our future,” Sanchez-Hall said. “We cannot let them cut services to poor families like mine, which are essential services critical for our communities and our families.”

Josh Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers said it is important to unite to voice opinions and continue to fight for additional funding even if it needs to be continued beyond the current legislative session.

“I think most of us believe that we as a society are defined by how we care for the least amongst us,” Pechthalt said. “When times are hard it is always our most vulnerable who seem to bear the brunt, but when times get better it is always the corporations who seem to reap the benefits.”