To chants of "No cuts! No fees! Education it must be free!" students at San Francisco City College marched through the campus on Feb. 21st to protest cuts that could harm the school's accreditation. It was a vocal, lively group, but small in comparison to the old protests of San Francisco's past.
Of course, the protests of the 60s and the 70s are distant memories and the tenures of Gov. Jerry Brown (two terms) have made their mark on the fiscal psyche of California. But while the protests of yore were large and boisterous, the tenacity and intensity may have remained - at least with this protest - and in it, Jerry Brown may have met his match
More Stingy Than Reagan
The tenures of Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan as governors have often been compared to each other in terms of social issues: while seen as a progressive in terms of social issues (like education) it was in the fiscal area where Brown has proved more conservative - and more ruthless.
After taking office, Brown gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative. The American Conservative later noted he was "much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan." His fiscal restraint resulted in one of the biggest budget surpluses in state history, roughly $5 billion. For his personal life, Brown refused many of the privileges and perks of the office, forgoing the newly constructed governor's residence and instead renting a modest apartment at the corner of 14th and N Streets, adjacent to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento. Instead of riding as a passenger in a chauffeured limousine as previous governors had done, Brown drove to work in a Plymouth Satellite sedan.
With a reputation like that, it was no surprise that Brown threatened enormous cuts in education to offset the state's $16.5 billion shortfall unless the stated would acquiesce to a property tax hike.
In a referendum, the state said "yes":
Overcoming decades of anti-tax sentiment in California, Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 -- billed as a tax hike to rescue the state's schools -- has emerged victorious in surprisingly decisive fashion.But then ...
Most Californians would be surprised to learn that 100 percent of education’s share of the tax increase proposed by Governor Jerry Brown will go to pensions instead of classrooms. But that would be no surprise to longtime observers of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which administers teacher pensions.Where Did It Really Go?
At the rally, one of the main points about Jerry Brown's dealings was that he pulled not one, but two switcheroos: one of the protesters, 45-year-old Pat, student at San Francisco City College questioned the measure: "We know that the money was supposed to go into the pension fund, but now hear that it is in 'reserve', so now we're wondering, really, where it went."
The Question Of Accreditation
The most serious problem of cuts to colleges and universities within California is the problem of losing accreditation, since thinly stretched budgets and losses cause accreditation boards to pull the treasured status. Lack of proper accreditation would, as one student put it "reduce City College to a rinky dink junior college."
Back To The 60s
In a scene straight out of old-time Berkeley (from Save CCSF) :
While waiting for a response from the Chancellor, students and allies shared their stories about why they loved CCSF, sang songs, studied, made signs, ate pizza and fruit donated by faculty and community supporters, and slept wrapped in blankets on cold floors. For first-year student Christian Guevara, this was his first participation in a political action: “I occupied because I felt that this wasn’t just another issue. I couldn’t just continue on my way. I knew that I had to be here.” Dozens of new students got involved in the movement.What now?
Today's meeting will seek to present these demands to the chancellor:
1) Call on the Board of Trustees to reverse all cuts to classes, services, staff and faculty. Stop downsizing the mission of CCSF and promote equity.
2) Organize town hall forums at all campuses so that students can have their voices heard.
3) Make a public statement calling for Prop A funds to be used for education as voters intended. Call on City Hall to give CCSF a bridge loan until Prop A and Prop 30 funds become available.
4) Speak out against CCSF being put on “Show Cause” without prior sanction. Call on the Department of Education to take action to stop the ACCJC’s misuse of the accreditation process.
The students have also stated that if these demands aren't met, they will take "other actions."
The battle for San Francisco City College has begun.