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Thousands of Community College Students March on State Capitol

March 17, 2003

Students March on State CapitolThousands of community college supporters from all over California converged on the state Capitol Monday to rally in protest of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts and a 118% fee increase for the California community college system. Students and supporters marched the one mile trek from Raley’s Field in West Sacramento to the West Steps of the Capitol unifying into one voice their disapproval and criticism of budget cuts and fee hikes that may drastically alter the future of many students enrolled in the 108 community colleges statewide.

The protest rally was coordinated by the Community College League of California, a non-profit advocacy organization for California community colleges, and promoted by each campus’ Associated Students. In a show of support, 100 students from Merced College boarded two buses early Monday morning for the 2-hour drive to Sacramento.

“I’m glad to see that our students are participating in the rally in Sacramento,” Merced College President Benjamin T. Duran said. “Community colleges students who number over 1,000,000 can be an effective force in conveying to the Governor and our legislature the importance of making cuts to community colleges proportionate to the other systems of higher education. Most Californians start their higher education careers in California community colleges.”

Both Merced County Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews and Senator Jeff Denham are products of the community college system and both took the time Monday to meet privately with Merced College Associated Student President Mary Lewis and ASMC senators Daniel Kazakos and Dennis Williams.

“My concern is for our representatives to remember that the optimal goal of the college student is to be able to access higher education,” Williams said as he sat with Assemblywoman Matthews. “Please be sympathetic to us when the time comes to vote.”

Matthews listened intently and responded that she was also a product of the community college system and that she and her colleagues understand the important role community colleges play in the accessibility of higher education. “We (legislators) want to make sure that access to the community colleges will still be available,” Matthews said.

During the meeting with Denham, Daniel Kazakos discussed the proposal circulating around the legislature to suspend Proposition 98, the “Classroom Instructional Accountability and Improvement Act of 1988.” The Act is meant to guarantee a minimum level of funding for the state’s k-12 schools and community colleges.

When asked by Kazakos to explain his position on the proposed suspension, Denham replied that he “is an advocate of education and against suspension of Prop 98.” Denham promised to continue to fight for community colleges to receive their proper funding.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the community college system,” Denham said. “I will not support any cuts to education. This was a promise I made during my campaign and I intend to keep it.”

Later that afternoon, Denham addressed the rally and publicly spoke of his commitment to education. The rally lasted late into the afternoon and dispersed around 2 p.m. Students and supporters were disappointed that Governor Davis chose not to appear before them, but considered the rally a success.

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