Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Students Fight for Education -- 68 students arrested in California

According to an article posted by U.S. News at MSNBC.com (http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/06/10589957-police-arrest-68-people-protesting-education-cuts-inside-calif-state-capitol), 68 students were arrested after protesting funding cuts for public education. According to the article, the protesters were arrested after blocking hallways and conference rooms at the state capitol. The protesters were also warned for an hour that they would be arrested if they did not leave. However, other than one man who was arrested for carrying a switchblade knife, there wasn't any other reasons given for the arrests.

While I do sympathize with the protesters, I think that the arrests were probably justified. It is important for legislatures to be able to conduct daily business, and if the protesters were blocking entrance to the building and conference rooms and making it impossible for legislatures to do their job, it is perfectly understandable that they would get arrested.

It's important to fight for education, but it's also a good idea to keep protests orderly. There have been a lot of protests that have gotten out of hand like one protest that happened earlier this year in California where protesters got maced by cops. Though it got bad media coverage and the cops were seen as using excessive force, the students were blocking the cops from leaving because they felt like a few students that got arrested (all for legitimate reasons such as disorderly conduct) were arrested unjustly and wanted the cops to let them go. Thus, they were in effect conducting a threatening act towards cops and endangering public safety by making it impossible for a large number of cops to leave and attend to other more important business.

For the students in this particular protest, they should have taken to the lawn and made sure to leave room for people to enter and exit the building. While obstructing the legislatures ability to do their job is a fast and easy way to get attention, it doesn't pay off in the long run.

I think it's awesome though that California students have been so actively involved lately. Like Arizona universities, California's universities are seeing major cuts in education leading to nearly double the tuition rates.

This is a bad policy for lawmakers. These students are our future. By making cuts to education, they are effectively raising tuition rates and creating more barriers for people to get an education. Without educated citizens, it is impossible to have a strong economy because we depend on college graduates to fuel  our workforce with experienced workers, start businesses, lead major non-profit campaigns, and generate ideas. Further more, education is responsible for a large portion of research that is developed in the country.

By cutting funding to education, you are not only hurting students, you're hurting the economy and the future of America.

The alternatives would be of course to cut spending elsewhere (though this is easier said than done seeing as how education and health care take up such a large portion of the state budget), or increasing taxes to make up for the shortage of state revenues such as Gov. Jerry Brown (Cal. D.) is proposing.

This is a move that Arizona made with Prop-100 which has brought in $62 million since it was enacted (which is short of what was projected by about $12 million). Though the revenues generated weren't as much as was hoped, this $62 million dollars has been a substantial help to education in Arizona. Though it hardly makes up for the shortfalls in government funding to public universities, it is definitely a start. And by only increasing sales tax 1% it doesn't have a large impact on the community either.

Remember, education should be our main priority. If you cut funding to education, you're not going to have a very bright future. America used to be #1 in the world, and even though we still have the largest economy, it's not nearly growing as fast as it used to because of a lost focus on education. Other countries like China and India that are putting a huge focus on strengthening their education systems are seeing amazing growth in their economies, despite having a shrinking population (where the amount of people born each year does not make up for the number of people that die) and an aging population.

We have to fight for our education (responsibly) and let legislatures know why education is important to everybody, not just students. We need to write our legislatures, call them, have meeting with them, vote, and bring awareness to cuts to education funding. When students unite, we get things done. Just take a look at HB 2675 in Arizona, where we worked together and got the bill pulled by the representative who introduced it.

Students do have a voice.

Students do have power.

And by using our advantage of numbers to influence politics, we can help create a better America tomorrow.


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