“March in March” protest on its way

A large crowd of SMC students stood in the lamplight outside the Math Complex on the SMC main campus. Packed closely together, the group congested the area and waited. They all got very quiet for a moment, holding their breath. All of a sudden, the company of students dispersed in groans. The students in the crowd were trying to add Prof. Martinez’s statistics class for which there was but one spot available. The rest of the students would have to crash a different course or wait until the next semester.

That was in Spring 2011. According to the CCLeague website, a non-profit advisory group for California community colleges, budget cuts of over $6 million at SMC have reduced the number of classes by an additional 566, making it increasingly difficult for students to get the classes they need to graduate and/or transfer.

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, an additional $149 million of funding was cut from California Community Colleges and $1.8 million from SMC, according to CCLeague.net. These cuts were due to lower-than-expected property tax revenues.

The funding decrease in higher education emerges just as California Community Colleges prepare for “March in March,” an annual protest in the state capitol arranged by the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. Students from community colleges across the state will rally on the steps of the state capitol building in Sacramento on March 5.

Harrison Wills, President of the Associated Students at SMC, states that the demand of students of elected officials is simple. “Fund education! It has to be a priority. It’s an investment. It’s the future,” he said.

2.9 million students in the CCC system is political power, according to Wills. As students wondered what they could do in the face of dwindling classes, shorter library hours, and other budget cut frustrations, “March in March” gave students the opportunity to take action and make their voices heard.

Where will the money come from? John Burton, Chair of the Democratic Party in California, proposes the “Tax Oil to Fund Education Act.” The policy was introduced in the 1970’s by education advocate, Gov. Pat Brown, father of current California governor, Jerry Brown. The act would place a 15 percent severance tax on oil produced in California, and the revenue would go to K-12, college, and university education in California.

Last year, the AS sent three buses to the march. This year, due to limited funds, they will be sending two. The all-day trip will be a learning experience, according to Parker Jean, Commissioner of Public Relations for AS.

AS members will provide students protesters with information on the current education issues in California and will lecture them on how to better exercise their democratic rights.