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Legislators feel grassroots pressure

Educators, students head to Sacramento for education funding

Posted: February 10, 2009 1:31 a.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 9:00 a.m.
Local educators and three students took their fight for education funding straight to Sacramento, hoping to apply political pressure by the people directly affected by the proposed state budget cuts.

"I've lived in California since 1983 ... I can't remember a time when we were in a situation more critical and more urgent to let legislators know that they need to take action," said College of the Canyons spokeswoman Sue Bozman.

College of the Canyons board members, staff and three students took a trip in January to meet with four local representatives about the state budget crisis and escalating price of textbooks.

"There's a certain point in any decision making of any kind when you make a decision by not doing something," Bozman said. "Not taking action is a decision and it has consequences."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers took a break from budget negotiations Monday after meeting throughout the weekend.

The leaders planned to resume talks today on how to reduce the state's $42 billion budget deficit.

"I believe that it's critical students have access to these community colleges. These are where students are going if they're laid off from a job ... " said 18-year-old Jason Burgdorfer, Associated Student Government president.

Because of stricter enrollment standards at California State University and University of California campuses and expensive tuitions, more students are opting to attend community colleges, he said.

Burgdorfer, a third-year COC student with plans to transfer to U.C.-Santa Barbara, hopes College of the Canyons students, faculty and staff attend a Feb. 27 regional rally at Pasadena City College to support the state community college system.

Alaya McKinney, 17, went on the trip to Sacramento to share her experience about being a college student and the need for education funding.

"I believe that students shouldn't have to break the bank to go to school," said COC student Alaya McKinney, who made the Sacramento trip. She plans to transfer to Howard University.

Allan Gao, 19, took the trip to Sacramento and wants to transfer to U.C. Santa Barbara.

"I wanted to learn more about the situation because it's going to affect me for another year and a half," he said.

The college launched an advocacy Web site about two years ago to keep students, faculty and staff aware of what they can do to support education, Bozman said.

At the site, residents can submit a letter to four legislators and the governor about issues in higher education, like the tardy state budget.

"We have found that it's a very active place," Bozman said, especially in the last nine months.

"My office has been receiving a lot of calls ... on numerous issues and certainly education is one of them," said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth.

He expects more calls about education to come in as school districts near the mid-March deadlines for layoff notices.

Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District and William S. Hart Union High School District are among a handful of districts across the state that passed resolutions supporting education funding.

Some of the resolutions applaud the governor's flexibility proposal, which increases class sizes and could potentially save districts money.

"We're coming up to periods where crucial decisions need to be made and we're making them in the dark," said Marc Winger, Newhall School District superintendent.

"People's jobs and livelihood and programs are all in jeopardy."

Friday - the 13th - will mark the 100th day since Schwarzenegger called lawmakers into special session to address the fiscal crisis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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