United for Education

By Michelle Wayland
|  Thursday, Mar 4, 2010  |  Updated 9:11 PM PDT
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United for Education

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United for Education

More than a thousand students and teachers from colleges and high schools all around the County gathered in Balboa Park
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Hundreds of students, faculty and staff at UC San Diego and other local colleges and schools protested education budget cuts Thursday.

More than a thousand students and teachers from colleges and high schools all around the County gathered in Balboa Park in the afternoon to march to the Governor's downtown office.

The rallies were part of "A Day of Action," a statewide effort to prevent lawmakers from making more education spending reductions in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

More than 300 students, along with some faculty and staff members, marched through the center of the UCSD campus, which has been rocked by several recent racially charged incidents.

The students chanted as they marched, banged on drums and carried signs that read "Equal Access, Equal Rights," and "Public Service is not Public Plunder."

A firestorm over racially and ethnically charged incidents spread to other UC campuses  this week after UCSD announced a KKK-style hood was found on campus.

The hood came on the heels of two other UC San Diego incidents: a February off-campus, student-organized "Compton Cookout" party that mocked Black History Month with ghetto stereotypes; and a noose found hanging from a library bookshelf last week.

UC San Diego campus police said they had completed their investigation into the noose incident and turned their results over to the city attorney for possible hate crime charges.

Marches, strikes, teach-ins and walkouts were planned nationwide in what was being called the March 4th National Day of Action for Public Education.

Organizers said hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and parents were expected to participate in the demonstrations.

Some university officials said they supported the protests as long as they remained peaceful.

"My heart and my support are with everybody and anybody who wants to stand up for public education," University of California President Mark Yudof said in a statement. "Public education drives a society's ability to progress and to prosper."

The steep economic downturn has forced states to slash funding to K-12 schools, community colleges and universities to cope with plummeting tax revenue.

Experts said schools and colleges could face more severe financial trouble over the next few years as they drain federal stimulus money that temporarily prevented widespread layoffs and classroom cuts.

Protest actions were held at most of the 10 University of California campuses, 23 California State University campuses and many of the state's 110 community colleges.

Demonstrations were also planned at universities in New York, Wisconsin, Alabama, Michigan and Massachusetts.

Students, teachers, parents and school employees from across California gathered in Sacramento for a midday rally at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to restore funding to public schools.

Education cuts have been particularly devastating in California, which has been grappling with massive budget shortfalls for the past two years.

In response to a 20 percent reduction in state funding, the University of California and California State University systems have imposed furloughs on faculty and staff, sharply reduced course offerings, turned away thousands of qualified students and raised tuition by more than 30 percent.

California's K-12 schools were preparing to lay off tens of thousands of teachers, pack more students into classrooms and scrap many academic programs because of deteriorating finances.

Many of the demonstrations Thursday were being organized by student groups, faculty associations and employee unions that often have a contentious relationship with the universities.

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