Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a national progressive student group, held a “Day of Action for Education Rights” on March 14. High school and college students in different parts of the country protested government cutbacks and stood up for education rights. The four demands put forward by SDS were: No cuts - chop from the top; pass the Student Loan Forgiveness Act (HR 4170); freeze all tuition and fees; and corporations off campus.
Around a dozen SDS chapters and other youth-led organizations throughout the country took up the call and 150 individuals, professors and unions endorsed the national day of action for education.
On March 6th, Tampa Bay SDS kicked off the March days of action by marching into the Marshall Center at the University of South Florida chanting, “Chop from the top!” They dropped a banner from the fourth floor of the student center. Students want to cut both the bloated administration and their salaries, rather than raise tuition. So students marched on campus to the Patel Center to convene a meeting with USF President Genshaft about their demands of redistributing their campus’ wealth. After pretending to not be in her office and repeated refusals to meet, the students responded with a sit-in and started a call-in campaign, despite being subjected to harassment by campus police.
At the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, 40 undergraduate students, graduate students and staff turned out to protest the budget distribution problem at the University of Minnesota. U of M SDS called for a rally in front of Morrill Hall and the office of University President Eric Kaler. Students and staff spoke, demanding President Kaler cut administrative management positions, instead of raising tuition or layoffs of front line staff.
Michelle Spivey of U of M SDS said, “There is one administrator for every 3.5 students. On the other hand there is only one faculty member - or one professor - for every 16 students! It is unacceptable to support a bloated administration at the expense of students.” The rally turned into a march, taking to the street with protesters chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, administrative bloat has got to go!” and “No cuts, no fees. Education should be free!”
High school students in Aurora, Colorado protested standardized testing. Students were encouraged to walk out of their Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) exams and go to the state capitol to protest. The students demanded an end to standardized testing, more money for humanities education and an end to school closings. Students protested with signs and banners that read “T.his C.an’t A.ssess P.rogress,” and “Teach. Don’t test.”
At the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, Youth Empowered in the Struggle, AFSCME Local 82 and the Alliance of History Graduate Students gathered at Spaights Plaza to protest inadequate funding. The groups composing the UWM Education Rights Coalition demanded a cut to military spending and more money for Pell Grants, increased funding for students from oppressed backgrounds and publicity of and increased funds for state employee reimbursement programs.
After rallying in Spaights they marched to present their demands to the administration at Chapman Hall, chanting “Education is a right! Students and workers unite and fight!” but found the building locked and guarded by university police. The coalition members also had several mic-checks, one outside Chapman Hall and four in and around the student union. When Michael Raspanti, a representative of SDS and the Education Rights Coalition asked to meet with Chancellor Michael Lovell and Vice Chancellor Michael Laliberte, Dean of Students Jim Hill claimed he did not know where they were and offered to present their demands to the chancellor and vice chancellor.
In Utah, students and teachers rallied on the steps of the state capitol on March 4. The Revolutionary Students Union of Salt Lake Community College led the protest to address increasing tuition costs, student debt, bloated administration and salaries and other issues related to the corruption of education. Students and teachers spoke out against state funding cuts, while Utah legislators emerged from the capitol to watch and listen.
A special-education teacher at the rally, Summer Smith-Woole said she was protesting because of, “the attacks on education and how schools are being run as businesses, putting profits before people, instead of people before profits.” A speaker on the steps of the capitol, Claudia Gutierrez-Sanchez, was optimistic about “getting people from different perspectives to speak out towards a same goal.”
This is the fourth March Day of Action for Education Rights since the surge of student struggle in California in 2010. These days of action continue to be an important way for students across the country to feel united and connected with one another in their similar struggle against the conditions of public education. Students should join with the SDS to continue the movement and to build the struggle. More should and can be won to win a great victory for the cause of education. They say cut back, we say fight back!