We all know the phrase “UMatter at UMass,” and we do matter. As students at the University of Massachusetts, we have checks and balances such as the Student Government Association and the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy to ensure the administration doesn’t make decisions without student input. Student power manifests itself both in SGA resolutions encouraging the administration to commit to renewable energy, and through student protests prompting the administration to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.
But do we exercise the same, or similar, power on Beacon Hill, the seat of the Massachusetts state legislature? Look at their actions and you’ll see that the state legislature has continuously failed us by systematically divesting from public higher education year after year. The Foundation Budget Review Commission also finds that our legislature underfunds K-12 education by more than $1 billion each year. Our legislators work for us. The fact that they spend their days raising their own salaries and offering tax breaks to corporations like GE and Amazon instead of meeting the real needs of their constituents is an affront to democracy. Now is the time for those on Beacon Hill to remember who sent them there. We, the voters, will not be silent in the face of this abdication of responsibility.
We live in an era in which the top 0.1 percent of our society owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. This is a level of wealth inequality we haven’t seen since pre-Revolutionary France — an unhappy story with an unhappy ending. The solution to this issue begins with free public higher education, ensuring low-income people can get the education they need to compete in today’s economy.
To advocate for economic justice, CEPA and the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts will take to Beacon Hill on Monday, March 5, with students from public universities across the state. There, we will demand that our legislators remember that they work for “we,” the many, not “they,” the few. Free breakfast, lunch and transportation will be provided, so any student can attend.
Now more than ever, Massachusetts needs free public higher education, proper investment in K-12 public education, universal healthcare, investment in green energy jobs and assurances that Massachusetts police forces will not aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement in its mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.
On the path to all these goals, we in CEPA and PHENOM are asking the state legislature to adopt these concrete reforms: Pass the Finish Line Grant to ensure all students receive one year of free public higher education in Massachusetts; guarantee $500 million in additional higher education funding from the approximately $2 billion generated by the Fair Share Amendment; pass the Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights this year; commit to meeting the budget requests from community colleges, state schools and universities for this year’s budget.
Register to join us on March 5, so we can hold our public servants accountable. As we, the working students of the Commonwealth, demand our legislators work for us, we must also inspire hope in each other as a united front. We are lucky to live in times of grand economic prosperity — now, let’s ensure we benefit from that prosperity. It’s time to remind our legislators that we all matter in Massachusetts.
James Cordero is the External Communication Coordinator of CEPA and can be reached at [email protected]