Make or Break Moment for Public Education in California

Posted on 07 November 2011

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By Pablo Rodriguez
Communities for a New California

On Friday, November 4th, I proudly joined a growing movement of students, teachers, parents, and workers and sent the open letter below to the fifty corporate elite who serve on the boards of California's public colleges and universities. We are the 99%, and through our taxes we are already paying more than our fair share to save public education and vital social services in California.  We are at a make-or-break moment for the future of public education.

We have endured $17 billion in cuts to public education and 200% increases in tuition for the University of California, California State University and community college students since just 2008. Now, $2.5 billion in additional cuts to education and essential services are under consideration for December.  We call on those corporate elite to sign the ReFund California pledge[1] to make Wall Street pay for refunding public education.

A week of actions at fifteen California university campuses[2] will begin at Fresno State University on November 8th[3] (see video below) and will demand the corporate elite on the boards of our colleges and universities sign the pledge.   The week of campus actions will conclude Nov. 16 at the meetings of the University of California and California State University governing boards and reinforce the message, “It is time banks, corporations, and the wealthiest 1% PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE.

Watch the video and help us defend public education!

Open Letter to Board Members of California Public Colleges and Universities

November 4th, 2011

Dear board members of California public colleges and universities, Wall Street banks created an economic crisis for our state when their deceptive mortgage-financing scheme collapsed in 2007.  Politicians rewarded them with trillions of bailout dollars that have restored record profits and earnings for Wall Street and the wealthy. Many of the corporate elite on the boards of our state’s colleges and universities have done very well recently. So, now – we hope you will agree – it is time for the super-rich and corporations to pay their fair share.

The $2.5 billion in new cuts scheduled for December cannot be passed on to students, parents, teachers, nurses, researchers and workers. We have already paid more than our fair share for the crisis Wall Street caused:

  • Schools and universities have laid off thousands of teachers and workers because Wall Street corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes.

  • Students and parents are paying nearly twice as much in tuition for UC and CSU than we paid in 2007 when Wall Street caused the current crisis.

  • Hundreds of thousands of students – particularly students of color – have had to drop out or delay education plans.

  • Students, parents, schools and universities are paying billions more in interest on loans than Wall Street has to pay for loans from the federal government.

  • Cuts in research budgets have set back progress on improving public health, maintaining a safe environment, and many other areas.

We can only have affordable, equitable, and empowering schools, universities, and essential services if everyone pays their fair share. We have united as a broad coalition of students, parents, teachers, nurses, researchers and workers who have paid more than our fair share. We need to both change our tax system and reduce mortgage debt for Wall Street corporations and the super-rich to pay their fair share. Changing our tax system and reducing underwater mortgage debt to Wall Street would end the foreclosure crisis, improve the economy, and boost revenue for education and essential services.

As a leader with a key educational institution, we ask you to pledge to support five specific measures for all of us to pay our fair share and use all of the resources of our schools, universities, and state to reverse cuts and tuition hikes. To stand with us, please sign the enclosed pledge form and return it by mail to:

ReFund California
c/o Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
3655 S. Grand Avenue, Suite 250
Los Angeles, CA 90007

You can also scan the pledge and email it to

By making Wall Street and the super-rich pay their fair share, we can fund the fulfillment of California’s Master Plan and guarantee affordable, equitable, and empowering education for all.


Rich Anderson, President, UAW 4123 – CSU student employees
Wendy Brown, Co-Chair, UC Berkeley Faculty Association
Xiaoqing Cao, PhD, President, UAW 5810 – UC postdoctoral researchers
Zenei Cortez, RN, Co-President, CNA/NNU – Registered Nurses at UC
Cheryl Deutsch, President, UAW 2865 – UC student employees
Carl Friedlander, President, Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers
Pat Gantt, President, CSU Employees Union – SEIU Local 2579
Mike Garcia, President – SEIU United Service Workers West
Rick Jacobs, Founder and Chair, Courage Campaign
Katherine Lybarger, President, AFSCME 3299 – UC service and patient care workers
Jelger Kalmijn, President, UPTE-CWA 9119 – UC professional and technical employees
Claudia Magana, President, UC Student Association
Bob Meister, President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations – Professor of History of Consciousness
and Political and Social Thought, UCSC
Dean Murakami, Vice President, California Federation of Teachers – Los Rios Community College faculty member
Bahar Navab, President, UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly
Marcos Perez, California Regional Organizer, United Students Against Sweatshops
Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Director, Communities for a New California
Chris Rosen, Co-Chair, UC Berkeley Faculty Association
Bob Samuels, President, UC-AFT – UC lecturers and librarians
Bob Schoonover, President, SEIU 721 – Southern California public and school employees
Amy Schur, Executive Director, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
Dean Vogel, President, California Teachers Association


Pablo Rodríguez is the Executive Director of Communities for a New California (CNC), a statewide civil rights advocacy organization. Prior to working with CNC Pablo has worked as a Public Policy Consultant as well as serving as Director of the Dolores Huerta Community Organizing Institute.

University of California Berkeley hijack’s our kids’ futures. I love University of California (UC) having been student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases. Paying more is not a better education.
Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California's ability to pay, not what others are paid.
Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases. Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university.
UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s ability to pay. The sky above UC will not fall when Chancellor Birgeneau is ousted.

Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents