by donald chan
Students have a chance this November to show Sacramento that they will not stand for any further cuts to public education by voting in favor of Prop. 30.
Prop. 30 raises the income tax on those making more than $250,000 per year and raises the state sales tax by 0.25%, and the funds all go to education. While K-12 education and community colleges face the most cuts if Prop. 30 does not pass, the University of California faces a $250.0 million cut as well, no small number given the many cuts in the past few years.
There is also a competing proposition to raise taxes for education, Prop. 38. It is expected to raise more money for education than Prop. 30 will because it increases taxes on those making over $7,316. However, none of that money will go to community colleges or public universities, so the UC would still face a $250.0 million cut. What’s worse, if Prop. 38 passes, voters would be less likely to agree to a tax increase for community colleges or public universities in a future election. After all, voters do not want to raise taxes on themselves two elections in a row.
The consequences are dire if Prop. 30 does not pass. Course offerings may be cut. Students will not be able to enroll in required classes or electives that they want to take, and while some people may say that electives are not important, having a specialized field of knowledge can be the difference between a job and unemployment in this tough economy. It can be the difference between staying an extra semester and graduating early to save money. It can be the difference between fulfilling all the requirements for a double major or an honors program.
But Prop. 30 matters for API students in particular. In 2010, APIs comprised 13% of California’s population, but comprised 39% of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate student population. Similar stories hold true at other UC schools such as UCLA and UC Irvine. Looking around UC Berkeley, one probably figured out that APIs are overrepresented on campus, but 62% of API students in California are also enrolled in community colleges.
Yes, that’s right, a majority of API students in California do not directly enroll in four-year universities. We are much more complex than the “model minority” myth ascribed to us. That generalization unfairly ignores those who do not fit the stereotype. Many APIs attend community colleges because they want to save money, because they want to be closer to home, because they are new immigrants, or simply because they screwed up in high school.
Tina Savong ’13, a Geography major in the Berkeley Cambodian Students Association, says, “People whom I know from my hometown—Long Beach, CA—[which has] a very high concentration of Cambodians, usually want to go to a city college first to save money or because they have that desire to help their parents financially. This means that instead of working towards a degree, they would rather work to form a source of income along with their parents.”
In addition, many community college students are recent immigrants. I personally know many hardworking students from Hong Kong who study at community colleges and transfer to UCs. They are not citizens yet and cannot vote, but they want to remain in this country and become productive citizens. Compared to other ethnic groups, Asian Americans do not possess as much social and political capital, partly because the United States heavily restricted their immigration before the Immigration and Naturalization Act in 1965. Education, therefore, is essential for them to succeed in our society.
When API college students mobilize the API community, they can influence whether Prop. 30 passes. They can inform their parents and relatives about Prop. 30 and encourage them to vote. They can use their language skills to volunteer at community organizations and inform non-English speakers about Prop. 30 and the importance of voting. Lastly, they can band together and vote in a bloc. Even if they are unsuccessful, their actions will show politicians that they need to respect the interests of APIs and college students. APIs and college students are two often-ignored groups in the political process partly because of their lack of voting in comparison to other groups. Voting will empower the API community to become more influential in politics, because it will tell politicians that APIs do vote and that politicians can gain many votes if they help a group that the American political process has largely ignored.
On Election Day, support Prop. 30 and vote against Prop. 38, in hope of preventing further cuts to community colleges and public universities but also in hope of advancing API goals in American politics. We CAN change our future. We CAN change this country.