Cal students and employees picket over budget cuts


The picketing began at 7:00 Thursday morning. It is a build-up to a walkout and noon rally. Many of the picket signs are familiar ones that have been seen over the last year like: "education is a right" and "we demand money for jobs and education." They say cuts to any level of public schooling affects everyone in the long-run.

Students, faculty and workers at UC Berkeley are joining forces to protest the newest slash of funding for public education. Walkouts, marches and rallies are happening at the UC's and other public campuses statewide. There is disgust over the state's newest budget plan to lower school spending by $3 billion.

"Instead of actually increasing funding for all education, they are cutting the foundation -- which is K-12," said Cal student Natalia Chousou-Polydouri.

Although the budget allocates $52.5 billion for K-through-12 and community colleges, nearly $2 billion won't be given to the schools until the next fiscal year.

"We're going to see bigger class sizes, laid off teachers. We're going to see more stressed-out teachers. We're going to see children who don't have the attention that they need to succeed in education," said Cal student Ricardo Gomez.

In a rare move, the only increase goes to higher education. The University of California and California State University systems are receiving a slight budget boost, plus $200 million each to make up for previous cuts. Cal students aren't calling this a victory.

"You have to consider that we got cut $800 million last year, so $200 million in the face of losing $800 million isn't really that much help," said Cal student Suzy Babb.

"I don't have any faith that even this money will be used as it should," said Chousou-Polydouri.

Some students believe their last year of protests helped convince the legislature to allocate more to higher education, but they say it's too little too late.

"Even though we're getting this money, we're not going to see a fee rollback. We're not going to see workers rehired," said Gomez.

Some examples of the impact -- a 32-percent tuition increase for UC undergraduates took effect this fall and classes are harder to get.

One solution students are suggesting is for the legislature to increase state funding for public education by funneling money to it from the cuts made to prisons.

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