On March 4th, students and workers across the US will join in a coordinated national day of actions and student strikes to demand prioritization of education and human needs over bureaucracy, rich corporations, prisons and war. While the call for a national student strike came at a mass meeting in Berkeley, planning is already underway for actions in New York, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Connecticut and North Carolina, as well as at schools and communities all over California. You can participate in an action, strike or protest near you on March 4.
The action protests extreme education fee increases, budget cuts, layoffs and privatization schemes in public school and higher education systems across the country at a time when bankers and Wall Street have received hundreds of billions of dollars in aid. The governing board of the University of California increased student fees 32 percent at a meeting November 19.
A powerful labor-student-faculty coalition to defend public education formed across California in the aftermath of a September 24, 5,000-person-strong mass student walkout and university workers’ strike at the University of California, Berkeley organized around the main demands of “No Budget Cuts! No Layoffs! No Fee Hikes!” On October 24, 2009, more than 800 students, unionists and activists from more than 50 cities across the state gathered at UC Berkeley and issued the call for a March 4, 2010, Strike/Day of Action to Save Public Education.
The attacks on public education and all public-sector services are deepening in California as a result of the growing state budget deficit and the recession. Similar scenarios are playing out across the US: tax revenues are down and public service cuts are targeting those least able to afford them. While the March 4 action is being called from California, the underlying issues apply everywhere.
In California, public education workers are being pitted against other public-sector workers with the threat of increased privatization of services, and with more so-called “reforms” aimed at gutting union contracts and destroying essential services. While much attention has been paid to the cuts at the elite University of California level, cuts to California State University system and community colleges have a deeper impact on working class students of color; with 40,000 CSU students to be shut out in Spring 2010 classes and an estimated 250,000 community college students denied access because of funding cuts and dramatic fee increases.
California is not just suffering a budget crisis but also a crisis of priorities. For example, 2009 was the first year the state spent more on the racist criminal justice system than on higher education. In building for March 4th, we are building a popular base to demand that the state tax rich people and corporations to pay for essential services.
A more unique issue for California is the need to reinstate majority rule over state spending priorities. Currently, each year’s budget and any new taxes have to be passed with a 2/3 vote, which gives an extraordinary amount of power to a minority of voters who elect conservative representatives who pledge “no taxes.” Another California obstacle to adequate public funding is a state law called Proposition 13, which severely limits tax revenues by taxing some property (particularly that owned by corporations) at 1978 levels.
There are many ways to get involved in the March 4 actions, from talking to your neighbors or family about the attack on the public sector, to organizing at your school or workplace to join in March 4 actions. For more information visit www.defendeducation.org.