Last Friday, the 48-day March for California’s Future kicked off in Los Angeles, and will continue for six more weeks to raise public awareness about three central ideas.
*Restore the promise of public education
*A government and economy that works for all Californians
*Fair taxes to fund California’s future
We are marching because we are witnessing the destruction of the California Dream. Our state ranks 47th in per pupil spending on education for K-12 and 45th for community colleges. Our CSU and UC systems, once affordable ladders to opportunity for the working and middle classes, are now increasingly unaffordable. We are on the verge of gutting vital social services such as health care for children and home care for the elderly and disabled in a way that should be the shame of any civilized people.
Budget cuts are devastating California’s fire and public safety programs, closing state parks, cutting health care for the needy, and thinning the ranks of our public servants (even though California already ranks 48th in the nation in state employees per resident). And all of this hurts the private sector economy as well, because for each dollar of budget cuts, over half of the jobs and economic activity lost are likely to be in the private sector, so we all end up losing. We’ve seen more than $18 billion in education cuts over the last two years alone, along with $30 billion in cuts to state programs during the same period, while at the same time, the top one percent of earners and the biggest corporations have nearly doubled their share of income over the last 20 years, and have not been asked to sacrifice a penny.
We are marching because of these grim realities, but the march, thus far, has been full of hope.
In Los Angeles at Mount Moriah Baptist Church, an overflow crowd of teachers, students, domestic workers, service employees and many more gave us an inspiring send-off on our “journey to a place called justice,” as one speaker put it.
In Bakersfield, we were received by a full house at Compassion Christian Center, where we heard the stories of young children losing state aid for their after school program. Later we were met by the United Farm Workers in Martin Luther King Park after a march through the streets of Bakersfield’s working class neighborhood. Folks waved and came out their houses and local stores to show their support.
The road has been hard, but along the way we have been aided by our friends from AFSCME, UDW and CSEA. We’ve heard stories about how the cuts are hurting cops, school employees, children and the community in general.
There was a social worker who stopped us in tears on the road to Wasco because she and her son were so moved by the march. She followed us for three days offering water and encouragement. Then there were high school kids telling us about losing their drama club to cuts, a cop who worried for the future, a janitor who told us about his daughter’s pink slip, prayers at churches, encouraging words from Dolores Huerta at our Delano rally and moving speeches by African American leaders in Allensworth.
After one week on the road, following the huge public education events on March 4th, it seems clear that something is happening out there in this state. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a movement to take California back for working folks.