The following is an explanatory, one-page outreach letter to parents of College students that can be revised and adapted to meet local circumstances.
College Protests ~ A Letter to Parents
As you know, students, faculty, staff, parents, and community supporters are protesting at colleges and universities across the state. We want to explain why.
Our protests were triggered by the huge cuts in higher-education budgets and the enormous tuition increases that are occurring year after year. The politicians blame it on economic crisis, but that’s not true. For years, in good times and bad, officials have chosen to cut state support for universities and colleges while slashing taxes for the 1% and increasing funding for prisons.
Fifty years ago, California citizens demanded affordable and accessible college education for the children. In 1960, Sacramento enacted a promise to Californians called the “Master Plan for Education.” It required that all students be able to attend a UC, CSU, or Community College tuition free. For two generations that promise was kept, but then in 2000 the politicians decided that cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy — the 1% — was more important to their political careers than honoring their promise to our kids. As a result, between 2000 and 2011 tuition at UC has tripled from $4,000 to $13,000, with corresponding increases at the CSUs and Community Colleges.
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 Latinos, Blacks, and others who have historically faced discrimination, the hope of higher education is being denied as economic barriers are re-segregating opportunity in California.
So many courses have been cut that last academic year total enrollment in public colleges declined by 165,000 students. And 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). Meanwhile, class sizes are increasing, which means less individual attention, less chance to ask questions, and less contact with the remaining professors.
Another fundamental issue that has nothing to do with taxes and budget cuts is how education funds are spent and how those decisions are made. For example, at the same meetings where they jack up tuition and cut staff, the UC Regents grant hefty pay raises to 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 brass are not inconvenienced. And why are there so many bureaucrats? 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. And the situation is no different at the CSUs and Community Colleges.
The real issue is political policy, not lack of resources. The real issue is that politicians and school administrations have abandoned the principle of tuition-free, publicly-funded higher education for all. They are steadily moving our system of public colleges away from education-for-all towards the model of expensive private schools — with high costs and tightly restricted 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 soon be only for the affluent.
We are writing you this letter to ask you to stand up for our children, and the public education that they must have to survive and thrive in the 21st Century. It’s time for parents and tax-payers to demand that free public education be restored and expanded for all. It’s time for parents to become involved.
Now is the time to take a stand.
Join us for the March 1-8, 2012, National Days of Action for Education:
Occupy Education California (www.occupyeducationca.org)
Occupy Education National (www.occupyed.org)