Local Student Group Holds Rally Against Proposed Budget Cuts

Speakers Claim Cuts to State School Systems Would Have Long-Term Disadvantages

Photo: Julia Fong Ma, district representative for State Senate President Pro. Tem Don Perata, spoke at the rally yesterday at Berkeley City College.
Tollef Biggs/Staff
Julia Fong Ma, district representative for State Senate President Pro. Tem Don Perata, spoke at the rally yesterday at Berkeley City College.

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In response to a proposed $84.4 million budget cut for community colleges throughout the state, a Berkeley City College student group held a rally yesterday.

The rally was organized by the Global Studies Club at Berkeley City College in response to March's mid-year announcement that state school systems may see large budget cuts to help offset the state's projected $17 billion budget deficit.

More than 100 teachers and students from Berkeley City College, Berkeley High School and UC Berkeley circulated in and out throughout the 90-minute noontime rally.

Guest speaker Assemblymember Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said she wanted to raise revenues through taxes to stop education budget cuts.

"Right now we need to just say no to the governor and the Republicans in the state legislature who say California can cut its way out of its budget deficit," Hancock told the group. "We can raise revenues in a way that will not touch low-income or middle-class families in the state."

While many students and teachers said the budget cuts are unnecessary, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff said they are unfortunate, but required.

"He doesn't want to have to make these cuts, which is why he's proposing budget reform as a long-term solution to stop the roller coaster ride that we are putting education on," said Lisa Pate, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger.

Pate said that UC and CSU systems, as well as community colleges, are receiving $90.6 million more in the proposed budget than in last year's budget, but this is still 10 percent less than schools expected to receive.

Speakers at the rally yesterday said the budget cuts will have many long-term disadvantages, including a greater income gap due to a lack of education.

"This will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots," Madeleine Hale, a student member of the Global Studies Club, told the group. "With many students working for lower pay, there will be less tax revenue for the state."

Julia Fong Ma, a spokesperson for State Senate President Pro. Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said education budget cuts would also harm businesses.

"Help us build allies, especially with the business community, because their bottom line benefits from an educated workforce," she told the group.

Several speakers had proposals for reducing the budget deficit in a way that would not require education budget cuts, including the restoration of the 11-percent income tax for individuals making more than $250,000 a year, a decrease in prison spending and the creation of a severance tax on oil.

"If we hadn't cut taxes in the 1990s, we wouldn't be here today," Hancock told the group.

The rally attracted some curious spectators who had not come to protest but rather to learn.

"I got a letter saying that my financial aid wasn't going to come through," said Megan McMillin, a second-year student at the city college. "I wanted to come here to see what the reason was."


Contact Selina MacLaren at [email protected]

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