I’ve heard that Cal Poly students are apathetic, that we don’t care about the budget crisis as much as other campuses like Berkeley, which had a riot over the issue last weekend. I don’t believe that we’re apathetic or that we’re less passionate about the issue. But when I thought about the prospect of protesting in this statewide protest over the budget crisis, I couldn’t help but ask myself whether protesting would change anything. The budget is set in stone, the cuts are being accounted for and the politicians who voted are still in office. What can protesting change?
When I think of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, I see that protesting does change society. And the way that King’s protests changed America is similar to the way that I see today’s protest, at 10:30 a.m. on Dexter Lawn and this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on Marsh St., changing California.
King changed hearts and minds in America through his protests and activism and if our politicians are going to vote on budgets differently in the future, people’s hearts and minds must change regarding education first. That starts with us — the students, raising awareness about the fact that education is a right, not a privilege.
Education is a right, because educated citizens are absolutely essential to a functioning representative democracy. Without public education as a right, America could not applaud itself as the land of opportunity. Public education exists in order to educate the maximum number of students while maintaining the concept that a quality education should be affordable. I believe that the CSU and the Cal Poly administration are doing everything they can to accomplish these objectives, despite the severe cuts to education.
If you don’t believe that you have been directly affected by the fee increases and furloughs, I will supply some statistics to inspire you to come out today at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. A promising candidate for State Senate, Michael Rubio, states on his campaign Web site that “California spends more incarcerating 167,000 adults than it does to educate 226,000 students in its 10-campus University of California system.” According to the Mustang Daily, Eric Benjamin, statewide coordinator of the budget protests today, said that every year the state spends $47,000 per inmate and $7,500 per student in California.
I hope to see those who have suggested that the liberal view on funding social programs rewards the irresponsible and punishes the fiscally responsible out on Dexter protesting today. I can’t think of a better example of this in society than the state’s priority of the prison system over higher education.
If you need another reason to protest, do it for your professors, who, I think, suffer the most as a result of this budget crisis. They are bearing the burden in furloughs and pay cuts. I think we students understand that the cost of education is worth the benefits we will reap in the future, but our professors are sacrificing their jobs and salaries.
The real issue with the higher education system is the way that the state collects and portions its revenue. The state can’t fully fund education without raising taxes. I find it interesting that Gov. Schwarzenegger has repeatedly said that he has to make the tough decisions on the budget, when he has refused to break with the Republicans to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy in California.
That’s the truly tough decision. He hasn’t lost anything by cutting social programs and funding for public education for children and adults. Voter opinion on raising taxes in California seems to be changing, however. The Public Policy Institute of California published in a report in January stating that two-thirds of Californians would pay higher taxes to avoid cuts to K-12 education, and 70 percent support cutting funding to prisons and corrections. It’s a start.
Please come out to protest today. If you can’t make it at 10:30 a.m. on Dexter, come downtown at 3:30 p.m. on Marsh St. and join the statewide protest. The future of public education depends upon our involvement.