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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 11      March 22, 2010


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(lead article)
Calif. protesters say:
Stop education cuts!
Thousands rally against school layoffs
Militant/Betsey Stone
Rally at San Francisco Civic Center March 4 against education cuts in California.

SAN FRANCISCO—Many thousands of students, teachers, and other working people mobilized throughout California March 4 to demand an end to the massive funding cuts in public education here.

A spirited rally at the San Francisco Civic Center culminated the protests in the Bay Area. Rally organizers estimated the turnout at 12,000. Participation was fueled by a vote of the San Francisco School Board February 23 to send out nearly 900 layoff notices to teachers and other public school employees.

“Don’t lay off my teacher,” and “No more pink slips,” and “Enough is enough” were popular slogans on the sea of handmade signs.

The boisterous contingent from Daly City included elementary school children up through college students and teachers. They marched with a giant sign: “Currently $1.5 million underfunded … and you want to cut more!?!”

“They’ve ended summer school, cut the school year by a week, cut after school programs and now, instead of around 20 students in our math and English classes, there are more than 30,” Jeser Villanueva, a student at Westmoor High School in Daly City told the Militant.

Iya Vargas, a student at California State University, East Bay, pointed out that students from working-class families are hit the hardest by soaring tuitions and growing student debts. “I have a friend who is dependent on financial aid,” she said. “The interest keeps going up. And she doesn’t get the aid in time to sign up for courses she needs.”

Students from San Francisco State carried a giant puppet of a human skeleton wearing a graduation cap. “It’s a student who’s still paying off his student loans, even after he’s dead,” one said.

The rally was organized by teachers’ unions in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Community College District Federation of Teachers, Bay Area chapters of the California Faculty Association, San Francisco Labor Council, and student groups.

Unionists who are school bus drivers, school secretaries, librarians and janitors participated. A cheer went up when hotel workers, who are fighting health-care cuts, were introduced.

Protests were held on dozens of college campuses. Students at the City College of San Francisco rallied around a large banner demanding: “No cuts! Restore summer classes, Restore library hours, No lay-offs/furloughs, Restore student services, Restore all cut classes.”

Demonstrators at Laney College in Oakland were joined by students from nearby high schools. They marched to the Oakland Civic Center where they met up with hundreds of University of California, Berkeley, students, swelling the crowd to more than 1,000. A similar size rally, attended by students from UC Davis, Sacramento State, and other schools, took place on the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento.

On March 1, Black students at UC Berkeley organized a silent demonstration of 200 students protesting the recent hanging of a noose at UC San Diego and a racist off-campus party, as well as racist incidents on the Berkeley campus.

As a result of the elimination of affirmative action programs after the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, today only 3.5 percent of students at Berkeley are Black. The students delivered a letter to UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau demanding action to recruit more Black students and faculty.

On March 5, 15,000 San Francisco city workers—librarians, gardeners, janitors, clerks, secretaries, and others—received layoff notices stipulating that most will be rehired within two weeks to work 37.5 hours a week, instead of the current 40.

Mayor Gavin Newsom says this is necessary to narrow a city budget deficit of $522 million. Republican and Democratic party politicians claim the statewide education cuts are needed to close a $20 billion state budget deficit.

A front-page headline in the March 7 San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed: “Student protests vs. fiscal reality, Lawmakers boxed in by $20 billion deficit.” The article argues that if slashes are not made in education, then deeper cuts will have to be made in care for the elderly and other social services.

This is part of a campaign in the big-business media aimed at discouraging action against the layoffs and cuts, arguing it’s fruitless, and even selfish for students and the labor movement to oppose the attacks.

Momentum is building for a march on Sacramento March 22 to protest “Skyrocketing fees, fewer class offerings, and devastating cuts to crucial student services.” An estimated 20,000 students will be turned away next fall if the cuts at community colleges remain in place.
Related articles:
Scotland protest opposes school cutbacks
‘We can’t be passive’ about attacks on public education
Seattle students march against tuition hikes
Students and workers protest N.Y. transit cuts
Defend social gains, workers’ unity

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