Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 3:52 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Hundreds Stand Up, Speak Out to Defend Education

Part of a national Day of Action, marchers take to State Street to protest deep budget cuts to local school districts and university systems

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, these budget cuts have got to go!”

Hundreds of people took over State Street and the Courthouse Sunken Garden on Thursday afternoon as part of the March 4 Day of Action, a call for the support of public education.

Students, parents, teachers, staff and supporters of public education held handmade signs and made their presence knows with cowbells, whistles and chants.

“They say cut back, we say fight back!” the protesters yelled.

Layne Wheeler, president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association, helped bring the various groups together for the event.

“Our voice needs to be clear and loud,” he said. “The government needs to stop the budget cuts and fund education so we can do our jobs.”

Similar events in support of public education were held at universities throughout the country Thursday, as the federal government’s fiscal troubles trickle down to the district level. Billions of dollars have been cut from California’s public-education budget in the past few years, and the University of California system, California State University system and local school districts are all feeling the changes.

Students from UCSB biked and bused into downtown Santa Barbara en masse to protest the UC System’s fee increases and to show their support for the movement. Both K-12 and higher education are facing sweeping cuts from the state for the 2010-11 year, and speakers at Thursday’s rally urged people to voice their concern to the Legislature.

“They have to hear us in Sacramento,” said former Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, a retired teacher. “Sometimes you have to yell to have them hear you.”

The UC Board of Regents approved double-digit fee increases for all students, which are expected to generate $505 million for the system. Undergraduate students face a 32 percent rate increase this fall over last fall — which bumps the annual cost to more than $10,000, not including room, board and books.

“We need to speak up when we see services and education taken away from us,” UCSB political sociology junior Armando Carmona said.

He perched on a bike rack as marchers moved along State Street and used a megaphone to applaud everyone who attended. “I know you’re tired; you’ve been marching all day,” he yelled.

Since legislators aren’t tired of making cuts, people who believe in public education can’t get tired of fighting, he said.

The California State University system raised fees by hundreds of dollars for the 2009-10 year and expects to do so again.

Other student speakers from UCSB and SBCC told the crowd to share their personal stories with legislators and march on Sacramento. With budget cuts, school districts and university systems are facing layoffs, furloughs, larger class sizes and less availability and program cuts.

“Our system is broken,” another student said. “Broken like my spirit when I was crashing classes last quarter.”

Representatives of the Santa Barbara School District — including teachers, administrators and staff — also participated in Thursday’s protest.

“The kids are the ones who are suffering,” said Kristin M., who teaches seventh grade at Goleta Valley Junior High School and declined to give her last name. It’s her first year teaching at a public school, and her classes are “overwhelming” in size with at least 33 pupils to a class.

The Santa Barbara School District cut about $6 million for the upcoming year, and the Goleta Union School District, which includes K-6 schools, is likely to face cuts of about $250,000. It’s difficult for districts to make projections, since so much can — and has, in past years — change with the May revisions to California’s budget.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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