Originally the purpose of the rally was supposed to be to demonstrate dissatisfaction with higher education costs. We can discuss whether or not higher education, especially as practiced in California today, is truly a public good, or if it's a service to be provided as long as the state can afford it--but I'd rather not follow that tangent. I'd rather stick to the rally itself.
The original goal was to protest tuition increases, but by last weekend some were arguing that the rally was being co-opted:
A massive student rally in support of higher education funding planned for Monday at the state Capitol is being co-opted by labor and Occupy activists, says an executive with one of the student groups.So bad guys were going to show up at the rally. Did they? Of course they did:
In the run-up to Monday's rally, two groups, Refund California and Occupy Education California, have issued press releases and given interviews about their plans to "Occupy the Capitol."
But Miles Nevin, executive director of the California State Student Association, says those two groups have "nothing to do with this event."
Another day of protests played out at the state Capitol on Monday with thousands of demonstrators denouncing soaring higher education costs and a select group spending most of the day inside the rotunda to achieve one goal: getting arrested.Would it be gratuitous of me to point out here that I cannot recall any Tea Party rally at which people refused to leave a public building when asked to (if they even needed to be asked), or at which anyone was arrested for carrying a switchblade? Probably, so I won't point it out. Moving on.
By the time the spectacle petered out Monday night, the California Highway Patrol tallied 68 arrests of people who refused to leave the Capitol rotunda after it closed at 6 p.m. Four others were arrested earlier, three on charges of creating a disturbance and one because he was carrying a switchblade, authorities said.
Longtime local columnist and commentator Dan Walters makes some salient points:
The thousands of college students who marched on the Capitol on Monday to protest rising fees and decreasing state support had a point: Higher education has taken a disproportionately heavy drubbing in recent years as politicians attempted – and largely failed – to balance the state budget.He goes on to pinpoint why things won't change, either:
The Legislature's budget analyst has calculated that under Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012-13 budget, state general fund spending on the University of California, the state university system and community colleges will have dropped 21 percent in five years, while fee and tuition revenue will have increased by 64 percent.
Several of those politicians uttered sympathetic words as they addressed protesters. But they sidestepped the political trade-offs that cut college funds and avoided any mention of the Brown tax plan they have endorsed.
Students may noisily protest, but they don't contribute money to politicians' campaigns, and their voting levels are notoriously low.And that, as they say, is that. So what did yesterday's rally accomplish? Probably nothing of value.
The budget is a zero-sum game, and higher education plays a weak hand.