June 1, 2011 – On the day summer classes should be starting at College of the Sequoias, students, parents and professors gathered outside Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway’s office in Visalia to demonstrate how budget cuts to community colleges are damaging educational opportunity here in the Central Valley.
“Budget cuts have left community colleges slashed to the bone, and our education is suffering,” said Tori Sullivan, a student. “Without summer school, the campus won’t be able to enroll as many students and those who are here will take longer to graduate. We’re already feeling the pain of these cuts and the only thing Assemblywoman Conway proposes is slashing more. We are here to show her what cuts really mean – not just for us, but for all of society.”
Students delivered textbooks representing the knowledge they won’t gain in summer school and set up an outdoor “classroom” of students sitting in chairs with no instructors to symbolize the hundreds of thousands of students who will be denied access to higher education if legislators make another $10 billion in budget cuts this year. Parents and educators joined students in urging Conway to support maintaining existing revenues in order to stop the cuts to education.
“The Central Valley needs leadership that will stand up for our community and our student’s futures!” said Marla Prochnow, an anthropology professor. “We are here to urge the Legislature to work together to protect education. It’s real down here and we’re the ones living their decisions.”
College of the Sequoias leaders cancelled summer school after state budget cuts left them few alternatives to deal with an $800,000 shortfall. Budget decisions made in the next three weeks will determine whether educational opportunity is further diminished for Central Valley students and families.
If legislators fail to maintain existing revenues and instead make another $10 billion in cuts – the approach Connie Conway has so far supported — things will get much worse:
- K-12 schools will see even greater cuts on top of $18 billion already cut over the last three years. Up to 19,000 teachers who received pink slips earlier this year may not return to their classrooms this fall.
- Tuition could rise another 32% at California State University and University of California campuses.
- COS and other community colleges could be forced to close the doors to more than 400,000 students statewide, and another 20,000 students could be turned away from CSU campuses.