Students protest: Education rally held in Sacramento demonstrates against budget cuts



Ariel Messman-Rucker

“No more cuts.”

“They say cut back, we say fight back.”

“Save our schools, we’re the key to recovery.”

These were just a few of the chants that rang out Monday at a rally at the state Capitol that drew an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 student from all over California to protest budget cuts facing the state’s community college system.

The new California budget makes drastic cuts to the UC and CSU systems, with somewhat smaller reductions leveled at the community colleges.

But while the community colleges fared better and student fees were not hiked, DVC and other two-year colleges face problems caused by the cuts to both state university systems.

The UC’s and CSU’s are planning to turn away at least 10,000 students this fall, leaving the already over-burdened community college system to pick up the pieces.

About 15 DVC students made the trip to Sacramento on chartered buses with students from Los Medanos and Contra Costa colleges. Student organizers had expected a bigger turnout and had two buses awaiting students at DVC for the 8 a.m. ride.

“I want to know why the government would cut the budget.”

– Tina Cheng

Although she did not attend, Helen Benjamin, chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District, said in a telephone interview that she supported the students going to Sacramento.

“It will draw attention to the issues important to students,” Benjamin said. “It will be a call to the Legislature.”

While marching 1.4 miles from Raley Field, students chanted and carried picket signs. Once at the Capitol, the chanting continued amid speeches and drum circles were formed.

The Associated students of DVC organized the group of students who came from the college, many of whom are involved in ASDVC, ICC or the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.

“As an international student I’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this,” said DVC student Ting Cheng, 18. “I want to know why the government would cut the budget.”

Juiche Feng, an economics major from DVC said he came to participate in the march because he “wanted to see how students organize and unite together.”

According to a March 5 email sent out by Chancellor Benjamin to all district employees, the new state budget eliminates costs of living adjustments, resulting in a loss of $5 million to the district.

The state budget, passed last month, also cut apportionment payments by $7.4 to $11 million, she said.

 Also, because of the property tax shortfall, the district is projecting a $3.5 million budget shortage.

While only a small group of DVC attended the rally, those who did were committed to the cause.

“I felt impassioned,” said student Alek Levin, 18, after the march was over. “The rally was really a step in the right direction.”

(Photographers Chris Duenas and Keiva Hummel contributed to this story.)