A teach-in supporting public school education took place at Berkeley City College on Saturday.
Organizers of the teach-in, including Joan Berezin, Global Studies Program Coordinator at BCC, and Marc Lispi, who teaches English, spoke to the audience about the need to form a broad social movement to resist deep cuts in funding for California’s public schools.
One view expressed many times during this day-long gathering was that public education from kindergarten through university should be accessible to all Californians.
The audience was reminded by Richard Hansen, teacher at De Anza College, that this vision is in keeping with California’s historical commitment over the past century to public education as the heart and soul of opportunity in the Golden State.
That commitment is being abandoned, the teach-in organizers say, by actions of the governor and state legislature. According to the teach-in organizing packet, K–12 school funding is being slashed by $5.2 billion, and at the college level, California’s university system is being cut back by $1.4 billion, which means that tens of thousands will be denied college admission.
Meanwhile, fees are being raised for those who do gain admittance.
The situation at California’s community colleges—the largest college system in the United States—is also dire. Cuts of $935 million mean that classes, library services, tutoring and other programs are being canceled or sharply cut back, student fees are rising, and workers are being laid off. About 250,000 prospective students will be denied admission to the community colleges in 2009–10.
Jen Wood, a student at Berkeley City College and a teach-in organizer, says that these cuts are impacting the working-class population that the community colleges serve.
Nearly 3 million students attend 110 community colleges in California. More than half of them are women and more than half minorities. One-third are over 40 years old and 80 percent are working while taking classes.