By Len Feldman
CCA President Ron Norton Reel (third from right) and CTA Board member Dian Hasson (second from right) with a group of CSU and community college students at a rally on March 16.
More than a thousand community college and higher education faculty, students and supporters from around the state gathered at the Capitol on March 16 to protest education cuts that are devastating all levels of public education.
The education supporters gathered mid-morning at Raley Field, a minor league baseball stadium in West Sacramento, and marched to the state Capitol about a mile away.
Community College Association President Ron Norton Reel, who led the CTA contingent at the event, said, "The march was designed to demonstrate to legislators, the governor and the public at large that education is the most important issue we need to address. If California fails to invest in our students, we will create a lost generation of workers and force our economy to spin further downward."
Waving signs reading "No Teacher Should Be Left Behind" and "Stop Education Cuts," the demonstrators heard from a dozen speakers, including Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who expressed their support for community colleges and higher education and their opposition to school cuts.
CCA members from campuses up and down the state, including Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Shasta College in Redding, Victor Valley College in Victorville, and Southwestern College in the San Diego area, jumped on buses early Monday morning to reach the ballpark in time for the 10 a.m. start of the march.
During the rally, community college students spoke of cuts that had restricted the availability of courses and expressed concerns that the worsening state economic condition could lead to increased student fees — something CTA/CCA and its allies have been able to block.
CSU and UC students spoke out against proposals expected to be taken up by the respective university governing boards that could boost fees by 10 percent. They also protested the higher education cuts that have been restricting enrollment in both the CSU and UC systems.
Like their K-12 counterparts, the state's community colleges have been hard hit by the education cuts that have slashed a record $11.6 billion from K-14 education. California was already rated 47th in the nation in terms of per-student funding, and the recent budget cuts are expected to move the state to dead last in this important calculation of support for schools.