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National protest to defend education

Published Dec 23, 2009 4:07 PM

On March 4, students and workers from all around the country will take action to defend education against increased privatization of K-12 schools and budget cuts, layoffs, furloughs and tuition increases at the college and university level—especially the public institutions.

Workers and students have shouldered the brunt of the capitalist crisis, while bankers and some corporations have been given hundreds of billions of dollars of public monies to bail them out of a crisis that was created by the capitalist system.

Young people in particular are faced with a grim future, one where well-paying jobs with benefits are becoming scarcer, where the educational system is being increasingly privatized and teachers’ unions weakened, and where the curriculum is being designed to prepare future generations for worldwide competition for low-wage jobs.

Colleges and universities are getting further out of reach for many, and those who are able to attend must mortgage their futures.

It is the current political climate, on top of drastic measures taken by state governments across the country, that helped give birth to the idea of having a national day of action.

At their Oct. 4 conference, California students and faculty, teachers and other workers first called for March 4 to be a statewide day of action.

California students have taken bold action, occupying a number of universities — University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State, to name only two. The action and energy from California have piqued the interest of many across the country, who then reached out to California students to make the statewide day of action a national day.

In mid-December the California Coordinating Committee and activists, students, educators and other workers from across the country released complementary statements agitating for a March 4 National Day of Action.

The ad hoc group’s statement reads: “As people throughout the country struggle under the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, public education from pre-K to higher and adult education is threatened by budget cuts, layoffs, privatization, tuition and fee increases, and other attacks. Budget cuts degrade the quality of public education by decreasing student services and increasing class size, while tuition hikes and layoffs force the cost of the recession onto students and teachers and off the financial institutions that caused the recession in the first place.

“Non-unionized charter schools threaten to divide, weaken and privatize the public school system and damage teachers’ unions, which are needed now more than ever. More and more students are going deep into debt to finance their education, while high unemployment forces many students and youth to join the military to receive a higher education. In addition, all of the attacks described above have hit working people and people of color the hardest.

“In California, students, teachers, workers, parents, and faculty have taken action against these attacks. They took to the streets in a one-day strike on Sept. 24, organized strikes and actions across the state during the UC Board of Regents meeting from Nov. 18-20, and have called for a statewide day of action on March 4. These actions have created a broad mass movement in California, drawing in students from all over the state to create a powerful struggle.

“As the effects of the economic crisis continue to spread into the education system nationally, it’s time to join our voices with students and workers in California and draw inspiration from their example.

“We support each group or coalition organizing in the manner and for the duration of their choosing. In solidarity with those in California, we the below-signed individuals and organizations call on students, teachers, workers, parents, faculty, and staff across the country to join together on March 4 to Take a Stand for Education!”

Planning for the March 4 National Day of Action has already begun in California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Connecticut and North Carolina. It will no doubt grow.

FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) and many student groups, community organizations, socialist parties and unions have begun planning and organizing for what could be a resurgence of a national student movement at a time when workers’ organizations and anti-war and community groups are becoming enraged at the loss of jobs, continuing imperialist war and plunder, racism and police brutality, attacks against immigrant workers, and all the other ills of U.S. capitalist society.

Hales is a national leader of FIST. Go to www.defendeducation.org or www.tiny.cc/TgYNe to endorse the call for the March 4 National Day of Action.