Students Protest at Capitol Over Education

Georgia State students rallied at the Capitol on Oct. 7 along with students from other metro Atlanta campuses for immigrant rights and to protest budget cuts and tuition hikes.

The event was part of a national campaign conducted by the local chapters of the group Georgia Students for Public Higher Education. Formed almost a year ago, GSPHE opposes continued fee hikes and budget cuts by the Georgia Legislature. In the past year, they have organized two similar rallies.

For the Oct. 7 rally, GSPHE members had a small demonstration in front of the library at noon to raise awareness and to encourage students to attend the march at 5 p.m.

Later that day, the students organized a few blocks away from the Capitol at Woodruff Park. Once there, they chanted and listened to various organizers criticize the effects of cutting education funding and of tuition hikes on students.

More students joined in as the march went directly through Georgia State campus, moving down Decatur Street to Piedmont Avenue until reaching Capitol Avenue. Marching to the beat of their homemade drums, volunteers carried signs with headlines such as “Education is a Human Right,” “Cut the Military Budget Not Education” and “Dream Act Now.”

Although the front steps of the Capitol were blocked off, a special area was set aside for the rally directly in front of the building. The crowd listened as GSPHE leaders introduced state senators Nan

Orrock (D-Atlanta) and Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) to accept a mock report card criticizing the state of Georgia’s hypothetical grades on the handling of educational matters for the previous fiscal year.

Orrock warned of bills that would attempt to limit student access to funds for education, particularly school voucher programs.

“Bills have been introduced and passed systematically and repeatedly to suck money out of public education and to create voucher education systems,” Orrock said. She criticized proposed school voucher programs before contrasting the Pentagon’s vast annual budget to federal funding of K-12 programs.

Both Orrock and Tate agreed on the need to fix the education system and promised to work hard with other state representatives, after the elections, on the “failing grades” of the education system.

This theme was repeated throughout the day as volunteers were encouraged to mail similar postcard-sized report cards, including individual comments, to their state representatives.

Still other participants wanted to organize to inform students of the issues facing them as soon as next semester.

“I think this is just a way to come together for a bunch of students who are afraid that with the recent increases in tuition that it’s going to keep happening,” Dylan Chandler, freshman, said. “And in the economy right now, it’s almost impossible to get a job without having a college education. So we’re really just fighting for the future, our future so that we don’t have an entire generation of uneducated people.”

Mary Louise Carrington, a 67-year-old African American studies major at Georgia State, also believed the rally was a way to draw people together.

“[The rally] brings awareness to other people. It helps generate action with people. Makes them think we’re not just sitting here,” she said.

She continued by drawing parallels to the protests during the Vietnam War. “People are fighting back, they’re tired of it. We should learn from Vietnam. We should learn from that time when people were active.”

John Maxwell, a senior and environmental science major, agreed. “I absolutely believe that getting students together and getting out there through these sorts of grassroots organizations is crucial to showing [politicians] that we have a voice and that it’s a big thing,” he said.

However, Kirkland McDaniel, a political science major in his junior year, said that convincing legislators that cutting education should not be an option was the entire goal of the rally. Although the Georgia Legislature is not in session currently, he felt the demonstration would still send a powerful message.

“The goal here today is to spread the word to our legislators that we shouldn’t cut education, and fortunately, we have two senators here to hear our message. Because, at the end of the day, students are people, people are voters, and [congressmen] want to seek re-election. We have a voice, and we’re making it heard right now.”

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