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Now what do you do?

After decades of gradual fee increases, the latest ‘deal’ struck by the UC regents to raise fees an unprecedented 32% has finally crossed the line. A world class education–essential for the success of yourself, your state, and your nation–is slipping away from California’s social contract.

Since realizing the inevitable last fall, you’ve walked-out, sat-in, and spoken-up. The outrage–real outrage–on UC, CSU, and Community College campuses is palpable. In fact, your reaction has received global media coverage. Of your massive protests last September, the UK Guardian first wrote of the “shock” it sent throughout the capitol, and then it described the students and faculty as “meaning business.”

So the die has been cast. The state of California has crossed the rubicon. Sacramento wants your education back.

What do you do?

You’ve blamed the UC Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees–suspicious of how readily they accepted the cuts and questioning of their compensation, you want answers. You’ve blamed the governor–for heaping the fallout of California’s colossal dysfunction onto the shoulders of its children, and for seeming aloof from the plight of California’s students. You’ve blamed the state legislature–for doing its best to undermine your education, and for allowing nearly every other function of the state to grind to a halt on its watch.

But something about these enemies doesn’t stick.

The regents and the trustees are only reacting to what’s coming down on them from the State Capitol, and their compensation alone doesn’t come close to closing the hole.

The Governor too is hamstrung. Even in good economic times, he and the legislature only control about 20% of the budget. The rest is ‘locked-in’ by the spending priorities and restrictions by the political movements of yesterday.

The legislature is a tempting target…but wait. Fees have increased during periods of Republican control and Democratic control; when liberals were in charge of the legislature and when conservatives were in charge; in good economic times and bad. You have every reason to believe that you will continue to receive less education for more money no matter who wins what election where or when.

No, the fee hikes, the layoffs, and the furloughs (like the IOU’s, the prisons, and the water) are bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger, and they are certainly bigger than either the regents or the board of trustees. For this reason, you and your fellow students have been visibly frustrated trying to find the right target for your wrath, the most effective avenue for your collective action.

Should you look to Sacramento? Today, at this very moment, the Capitol exists in a state of controlled-anarchy. Every lobbying firm and every interest group scavenges whatever it can from the public body; the feast has no strategy, no master plan, and no guiding principle. The beast has shown itself capable of devouring water systems, prison systems, roads, bridges, and the social safety net, and now its hungry for the greatest university system in the history of our species. The monster cannot be tamed or captured, and its gluttony is ravaging us all.

Then it hits. The problem is Sacramento. Your enemy is Sacramento.

What do you do? When who controls the legislature or the governor’s mansion has largely ceased to matter, and when the system and all its parts has become so fundamentally committed to destroying everything you love–from your parks to your health to your education–where do you turn? Do you tinker around the edges? No. You get a new system.

Last month, a coalition of advocacy groups called Repair California, finalized and submitted two ballot measures to do just that, by calling California’s first constitutional convention in 130 years. If the measures succeed at the ballot we would be enabled to scrap the old system and build a new one, one that learns from other states and reflects the California of tomorrow. No other reform proposal offers such an opportunity, not even close.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to accept the status quo and what it’s doing to us. It’s time for us to seize our future. California needs you. This movement needs you. Visit http://www.RepairCalifornia.org.

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