Schools Not Jails
Students gather to discuss the differences in government spending on prisons vs. education
November 19, 2003 4:43 PM
The organizations Books Not Bars and Education Not Incarceration put on a rally for SF State students in Malcolm X Plaza today to raise awareness about the disparity between prison and education funding.
Today's rally is a statewide day of action and was just one of the many events put on by these organizations today to educate the community about the impact of the criminal justice system on the lives and budgets of all California students.
The Associated Students and the Student Empowerment and Involvement Center worked with Books Not Bars and Education Not Incarceration to put together today's event, which hosted various speakers, poets and rappers who encouraged students to stay out of the prison system and to divert prison spending to the state's underfunded public education system.
International relations major and member of the Student Empowerment and Involvement Center, Sanjev DeSilva has not been affiliated with Books Not Bars for long, but became aware of it when the organization started developing an SF State chapter, which is still in its formative stages.
"I thought it would be a good [organization] to get involved with," DeSilva said.
Books Not Bars was launched in 2001 as a project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The organization pushes for government spending on prisons to be minimized and transferred to the education system.
Michael Molina, a member of Books Not Bars, shared various statistics with students, among them that SF State has recently had a 30 percent tuition increase and another is expected in the near future. More than 120,000 community college students have been forced to leave because of similar tuition hikes.
At the same time, 3,800 teachers have been laid off since the 2003-2004 budget cuts were effected. According to Education Not Incarceration, California ranks number one both in the number of prisoners and in the amount of money spent on prisons.
Molina emphasized the difference in government spending on prisons versus on education. "This is your money!" he yelled repeatedly. He encouraged students to fight for their rights and their money.
Asian-American Studies student Mark Bautista introduced a group of ninth-graders from the June Jordan School of Equity, which is located on campus in Burke Hall. Bautista is a mentor to these students year-round and is employed by the organization, REAL (Revitalizing Education And Learning). Books Not Bars came to the June Jordan School of Equity a few weeks ago to do workshops with the youth to educate them about the organization and asked them to speak at today's event.
These young students eagerly took the stage to voice their opinions about the inadequate educational spending. They led SF State students in chanting, "Books not bars, schools not jails." These high school students encouraged listeners by pointing out that although they are younger they are more active than college students in fighting for their student rights.
Although many SF State students passing through Malcolm X Plaza today seemed mostly uninterested, today's rally was intended to encourage students to be more active by going to the offices of state lawmakers with letters, photos, essays, stories, and anything else to show lawmakers that California students are suffering because of the budget cuts in the educational system and the increased spending on prisons to influence them to prioritize educational spending.
"It's up to us to make a difference," Molina said.
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