Rally for AB 656

The week of Oct. 12-16, CFA held events on most, if not all of the CSU campuses. I was a featured speaker at Monday’s event on the CSU East Bay campus in Hayward. The focus of the rally was for AB 656, sponsored by Assembly member Alberto Torrico, a bill that would tax oil as it comes out of the California ground. This is something the other 16 oil-producing states in the country do, and Texas the longest, using the revenue to fund their higher education system. Here is what I said at the rally.

I am Russell Kilday-Hicks, vice president for representation for CSUEU, the non-faculty staff union; and I work at SF State. I stand here today with my son, Liam, who is off from school because it is Indigenous Peoples Day. I hope we can preserve the CSU and would be proud to have him attend this university system someday.

I attended the last few Board of Trustee meetings at the chancellor’s offices in Long Beach. At one of these, Lt. Gov. Garamendi tried unsuccessfully to get support for AB 656. So what has been the trustee plan for replacing shrinking state support for the CSU? Over the last 20 years they were on bended knees begging for corporate support, through voluntary donations. I ask you: How is that working? Why won’t the trustees support taxing California’s oil wealth so that higher education can have steady income to continue providing the opportunity a quality education offers to the children of working people in this state? Because, as BOT Chair Jeffery Bleich said recently, 656 as written takes away some trustee control on how the money would be spent. What Bleich didn’t say was they might be concerned it will also offend the wealth they are wooing for donations.

What we are seeing is a failure of a political system to provide for its people. Governors appoint the trustees. The current governor says he wants to “starve the monster,” which is the name he gives to the public sector, including the CSU. The attack on the higher education budget is a strike against democracy. The elites will always have their ivy league to send their children to. In the elite worldview, the children of working people don’t need higher education; they only need job training. It’s time the CSU had trustees we can trust to not only preserve the CSU, but to expand it to fill the yet unmet needs of California for a universal education where you learn to think critically, a crucial ingredient for a healthy democracy. The current trustees are merely managing the decline of a once great system. We need leaders who believe in a government that provides for its people. Thank you for being out here today. Let’s continue to show the trustees and the next governor that this is what democracy looks like.

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