Sojourner's Blog

January 30, 2010

Letter to Parents of California College Students

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

1/8/10

Why We’re Protesting ~ A Letter to Parents

As you know, students, faculty, staff, and community supporters are protesting at colleges and
universities across the state. We are writing this letter to explain why.

Our protests were triggered by the enormous cuts in education spending and the huge tuition increases that politicians claim were forced by last year’s economic crisis. But that’s not true. For years, officials have been shifting money from education to prisons. Governor Schwarzenegger acknowleges that, “30 years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and three percent went to prisons. Today, almost 11 percent goes to prisons and only 7.5 percent goes to higher education.”

Back in 1960, the politicians in Sacramento enacted a promise to the citizens of California. It was called the “Master Plan for Education,” and it required, by law, that all qualified students be able to attend a public college—tuition free. For years that promise was kept, but then they started getting around the law by calling it “fees” rather than “tuition.” Between 2000 and 2008 (way before the economic crisis) tuition at UC and CSU more than doubled. In 1960, student fees at UC and CSU were roughly $150. This year at UC they’re $11,000 (a 7000% increase), and at CSU they’re $4,900 (a 3200% increase).

For many students and their families, especially those hard hit by layoffs and foreclosures, the dream of a college education has been priced out of reach. And for Blacks, Latinos, and others who have historically faced discrimination, the hope of higher education is being denied as economic barriers are re-segregating opportunity in California.

But the issues are deeper than the just the cost of education. So many professors have been let go that this Spring no new students will be admitted to the CSU system, and total enrollment will be slashed by at least 40,000. At the Community Colleges 250,000 students will be “turned away.” Those who do manage to get into a school are discovering that required classes are no longer available so they have to attend an extra year to graduate (and pay yet more tuition). And class sizes are doubling which means less individual attention, less chance to ask questions, and less contact with the remaining teachers.

A fundamental issue that has nothing to do with economic crises is how education funds are spent and how the decisions are made. At the same meeting where they jacked up tuition, the UC Regents also gave hefty pay raises to the executives and senior bureaucrats. Apparently $500,000 a year isn’t enough, so the wages of janitors have to be cut and librarians laid off so that the top managers are not inconvenienced. And why are there so many of them? Fifteen years ago UC professors outnumbered senior managers by two and a half to one, but today there are actually more high-paid administrators than professors.

The real issue is not the current economic crises. The real issue is that politicians in Sacramento have quietly abandoned the principle of publicly-funded higher education for all. Over many years they have steadily moved our system of public colleges away from education-for-all towards the model of expensive private schools—with tightly restricted and highly competitive admissions. The word for this is “privatization.” It is a word that means converting public colleges to the model of private universities. It is a word that means higher education will only be available to the affluent.

We are writing you this letter to ask you to stand up for your sons and daughters, and the public education that they must have to survive and thrive in the 21st Century. It’s time for parents and taxpayers to demand that public education be restored and expanded for all. It’s time for parents to become involved.

For more information:
In Defense of Quality Public Education – California
California Faculty Assoc.
Council of UC Faculty Associations

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