Community Protests Cutbacks to Community Colleges

On Friday March 28, thousands of protestors gathered at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. Unlike other recent protests, this one was about a very local problem. California community college’s budget has been reduced by Gov. Gray Davis. According to the California community college website, “Governor Gray Davis signed the mid-year budget cut bill for community colleges (SB 18X) late Tuesday evening, March 18.”

Although the state’s budget crisis demands that sacrifices be made, the belt-tightening is not equal. The same website goes on to say, “The cuts equate to a 3.3 percent decrease for community colleges – in comparison to a 1.7 percent decrease ($60.9 million) and a 1.5 percent decrease ($59.6 million) for the California State University and University of California systems, respectively.”

Members of the Los Angeles community came together to protest the cutbacks. Chris Covault, one of the volunteer event coordinators explained: “This event is permitted as a march and rally pertaining to the budget cuts coming from Sacramento.” A full range of people, of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, gathered to protest the reduced funding for community colleges. Groups from many local colleges banded together. Glendale College, Pasadena City College, and LA Trade Tech Community College and others were there holding banners and signs.

“No way! We won’t pay!” Shouting slogans, protestors carried various signs to make their point. “No Raised Fees-Equality and Access.” “Keep the doors open. Stop the Cuts. No Fee Hikes.” “I had a dream: Community College.” The people filled the entire breadth of Hill street and stretched on for more than four city blocks.

Many Los Angelinos have come to rely on the availability of community college programs. Tippy Briggs from Los Angeles Harbor College said that community college meant a lot to her: “Community college means a better education, a better job to support my kids. I’ve been a secretary for 20 years. Now, for me to be advanced, they’re telling me I need a A.A. or a B.A.” She is particularly worried about her daughter, who is approaching college age. Tippy is not sure her daughter will have a chance to get the education she needs without the availability of community colleges.

Staff workers as well as students are concerned. Tino Manzano, an administrator at Los Angeles Valley College was there “just to remind Gov. Davis that community college students matter.” According to a flyer passed out at the event, “Community Colleges are already canceling entire academic majors and job-related training programs and community college students needing to transfer to universities are forced to delay their education.”

Covault went on to say “Democracy requires education…Access to self-betterment is key.”