By Selah Zichterman in News
A sea of white t-shirts flooded the auditorium in hopes of making a change.
The room buzzed with excitement and anticipation.
“We are the students of higher education! We are the future! We deserve support!” Chanted the crowd.
Protesters gathered around the balconies holding signs that read “redefine education and unite us as K-14.”
Clark students traveled to the state Capitol building in Olympia on Feb. 5 to support funding for community college and redefine basic education as “K-14.”
Last year, the State Supreme Court decided in McCleary v. State to increase funding for K-12 by 70 percent, early learning programs by 5 percent and higher education by only 25 percent beginning July 2015.
“Tuition rates at public universities and colleges on average have doubled over the last decade and are one of the highest in the nation,” according to the McCleary Act.
According to the act, Washington ranks 46th in participation for higher education and 49th in graduate education in the country.
However, the act also ruled that Washington violates our state constitution by failing to provide ample funding for K-12, but excluded community college funding from that responsibility.
In order to stop the 30-year trend, the senate decided that the majority of growth in state revenue will be directed towards education within the next 20 years.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, a Clark graduate, is a strong supporter of higher education funding. “We have huge challenges due to the McCleary decision,” she said.
“Clark students went to the Capitol in hopes to ensure higher education funding is supported equally with K-12,” said ASCC Finance Director Bryce Ruppe.
Clark joined in protest with 34 other community and technical colleges through a group called the Washington Community & Technical College Student Association. WACTCSA’s stated purpose is to provide a voice for education in Washington.
The president of WACTCSA Robert Lasker said, “It is a shame that K-12 and higher education are pitted against each other, but where are the graduates going to go if not equally funded? You are robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
“Many fear cuts to higher education budgets,” Lasker said. “If anything, the McCleary decision motivated students to protect themselves,” he said.
Lasker said over 900 white t-shirts that said “Redefine Education as K-14” were ordered for students attending the rally. “We wanted to organize the rally using the shirts in order to show unity within Washington higher education schools,” Lasker said.
Regional Representative Latonya Brisbane said, “WACTCSA has been doing this rally for six years and has planted several interns in the state Capitol who are working with legislature three days a week,” she said. “We are coming out of the grassroots and we want to be permanent figures at the state capitol.”
Brisbane said they received twice the turnout this year and students could feel the impact they were making for K-14.
Protester Edwina Lyon said, “If you are not educated, it is like being enslaved because freedom is education.”
Another protester Lynea Cargile said, “For those people who do not believe funding for higher education is necessary, I would ask them to put themselves in our shoes.”
Ruppe said, “Although the effects of the McCleary decision will not unravel until July, the hope for this event is that Clark will make an impression on the legislatures.”