Higher Education under attack, stand up with Laney College students March 4

By Reginald James
Editor of TheBlackHour.com
For years, Higher education has been under attack. With the economy, community college enrollment has skyrocketed. At the same time, the state is balancing its budget on the backs of students with draconian cuts to education. While all people are affected, Black students will bear the greatest brunt.

The California Community Colleges are the largest system of higher education in the world. Community colleges are an affordable option for basic skills, career training or preparation to transfer for a four-year college. Legions of people in our community have benefited from the education they received in community college.

But after the 1996 Proposition 209 - which eliminated affirmative action for education - enrollment of Black students at the UCs and CSU's plummeted.

Nationwide, one of every 14 Black collegians attends a California Community College, and one of every seven Black students in community college attends school in California.

As education spending is being chopped, spending on prisons continues to increase.

The state Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) estimates that by 2012 the state of California will spend more annually on prisons that it spends on higher education. Black and brown people are incarcerated at rates much higher than their population.

So despite having one Black face in the White House, there are too many Black men (and women) in the Big House. Prisons are the new plantations, providing below wage labor for private industry profits.

Meanwhile, essential programs and services that all students' need are being cut, like EOPS and childcare. Student enrollment fees continue to increase, forcing students out of college. Additionally, cuts to the UC and CSU are pushing other students back into community colleges, taking away seats from students who have no other option. Despite rallies in Sacramento the last two years, the situation has not improved. The state is still not prioritizing education.

It's time students took the fight through our own turf.

On March 4, students from colleges throughout the East Bay will walk out of class. After the 11 a.m. walkout at Laney College a rally will be held on the campus quad. Students will then march through downtown Oakland to City Hall. It is important to make our presence felt to the community at-large, that knows about the value of community colleges, but don't know about the danger of losing these institutions.

An "Education Rally for California's Future" will be held at San Francisco's Civic Center at 5 p.m. with students from throughout the Bay Area.

Walk out for those ancestors who were deprived of the right to an education. Walk out for your classmates being forced out of school because the class they needed was full or cancelled.

March for those incarcerated in concentration camps called prisons that need a second chance when they are released or never even got a first chance.

March for our professors and staff who break their backs to educate us. All the while, many are in danger of losing their jobs.

Stand up for your family. For those younger brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews who won't have a chance to get an education.

Stand up for your children, and your children's children, to ensure that they have more opportunities than we have today.

The walk out and march ain't a field trip; it's a message. We matter. Without us, there is no community in "community college."

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