United for change
Students assemble at state Capitol to lobby, rally for accessible education
Los Angeles City College students Lisa Bao (center) and Maureen Davis (right) march toward the state Capitol during the annual March in March rally for education in Sacramento on Monday. Qing Huang / The Advocate
Students march toward the Capitol steps during the annual March in March rally for education in Sacramento on Monday. Cody Casares / The Advocate
SACRAMENTO - Students from up and down the state gathered in the Raley Field parking lot in Sacramento, beneath a blanket of gray clouds, on Monday to march on the state Capitol for the annual "March in March."
The annual march is for students to voice their concerns about the future of higher education in California.
Moments before the march began, students could be seen hastily preparing protest signs for the march.
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges put the "March in March" event together to advocate for equality in higher education.
Only a few Contra Costa College students were in attendance, including Associated Students Union members Ysrael Condori and Kirsten Kwon.
Students met around 10 a.m. to prepare for the march to the steps of the state Capitol.
Police on bikes and horses shut down the bridge that traverses the Sacramento River, Highway 5 and the eight blocks of downtown streets leading to the Capitol to allow the marchers to proceed without automobiles impeding their progress.
Multiple speakers greeted the marchers once they arrived at the Capitol. Most speakers focused on what can be done to increase the funding being channeled into California's community college system.
Many of the signs showed how, despite the passage of Proposition 30 in November 2012, higher education in California is expensive and services at California colleges and universities continue to be cut.
Michael Greenberg, a Santa Monica Community College student, was the first speaker once the students had reached the Capitol steps. The heavy gray clouds began releasing water drops and umbrellas opened up on cue.
"Access to education should be equal," Greenberg said from behind the podium. "Education is a right - not a commodity. No one should be able to tell me that I cannot better myself because I don't have enough money. Education should be free."
Soon after he began, Greenberg was muffled by the bellow of student voices from the crowd as it moved onto the streets, crossing the Tower Bridge into the downtown area.
The state's new regulations regarding transfer and repeatability were another topic on the lips of many people in the crowd. Some students who participated in the march were allowed into the state Capitol to talk to their area legislators.
A student government member from San Bernardino Valley College, Tiffany Guzman, said it was her second time attending the march.
She said she had to come after being motivated to become politically involved with issues that affect colleges in California.
"You now need to have an educational plan ready, but it is hard when you have one counselor to every 1,500 students," she said.
The 2013-14 ASCCC President Aaron Bielenberg spoke from the steps of the state Capitol as well.
"All these students are from different backgrounds, have different ideologies and different perspectives but are all standing here today - look around you. Our diversity is evident."
He said there are 2.4 million community college students at 112 campuses in California and that these students will be the ones who continue to drive the state's economy.
There was much talk in the crowd about Gov. Jerry Brown's rejection of the oil severance tax, SB 241, which would have raised $2 billion for California's "Higher Education Fund."
SB 241 would impose an oil and gas severance tax on consumers if passed. The collected tax would be placed into the "CHEF" and be distributed between CSUs, UCs, community colleges and the Department of Parks and Recreation in California.
The bill requires a two-thirds majority vote from each house of the Legislature to pass and the governor's signature to become California law.
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