Students and educators from San Francisco universities, community colleges and K-12 schools are holding pickets and other demonstrations today as part of a “Day of Action” against cuts to California’s public education system.
Students at San Francisco State University have been holding informational pickets outside the administration and ethnic studies buildings on campus since early this morning, said Phil Klasky, an ethnic studies lecturer at SFSU who is member of the California Faculty Association.
The picketers planned to gather at 10 a.m. for a larger picket at the corner of 19th and Holloway avenues, where a street theater performance involving large paper mache puppets is scheduled for noon.
The protesters will then march to Malcolm X Plaza on campus for a 12:15 p.m. rally that will feature speeches by students, faculty and lecturers, as well as spoken word, poetry, and musical performances about the budget cuts.
Klasky said he has been a lecturer on campus for seven years, and has “no idea if I have a single class in the fall.”
He said he also worked as a counselor at the ethnic studies department’s student resource center, which was closed last semester due to the budget cuts.
The budget reductions have also affected City College of San Francisco, where hundreds of classes have been cut, including the entire summer semester.
Felix Cabrera, a history student at the school, said he is studying to become a high school history teacher but is having trouble signing up for classes because more students are trying to get into fewer classes.
“Classes are getting larger and harder to get into, and if you can’t get into them, then you can’t get financial aid if you’re not a full-time student,” Cabrera said.
He said that as a result, students are having a hard time graduating or transferring to four-year schools.
“Cuts don’t just affect us here, but where we’re going to go afterwards,” he said. “City College isn’t supposed to be the end for students, but the beginning.”
Students, faculty and staff will be gathering for a noontime rally at the Wellness Center amphitheatre on campus.
Free food and music will be offered at the rally, which will also feature “speak-outs” in which people will voice their opinions about the cuts.
Elementary school students and teachers in San Francisco are also taking part in today’s actions.
At 10 a.m., students throughout San Francisco Unified School District planned to hold emergency drills meant to symbolize that budget cuts are a disaster for schools.
Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in the western part of the city planned to let teachers and students walk out of school at 1:10 a.m., an hour earlier than usual, so they can attend a 1:45 p.m. rally at Larsen Park.
The school had 435 children and 19 teachers this year, but is expected to lose two teachers due to budget cuts while gaining 45 additional students.
“If you do the math, that means ridiculously high class sizes,” Liz Isaacs, a parent at the school, said in a statement. “How can we have engaged, joyful learners in this environment?”
Bay Area protests are expected to culminate in a massive 5 p.m. rally in Civic Center Plaza that could be attended by more than 5,000 people, including many of the people involved in the earlier rallies today, according to Matthew Hardy, spokesman for United Educators of San Francisco.
The rally is expected to feature more than 30 speakers and performers from schools and universities that will call on state legislators to restore funding to public education.
“What’s happening right now is endangering a generation of students and their families,” Hardy said.