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 CALIFORNIA: Students Protest State Spending More Money on Prisons Than on Schools


September-October 1998

On October 1, thousands of students at high schools in San Leandro, California, walked out of school and marched through town in protest, saying the state was spending too much money on prisons and not enough on schools. Protestors chanted: "Education, not incarceration" (Henry K. Lee and Manny Fernandez, "Youths Want More Money for Schools," San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1998; Associated Press, "High School Students in California Protest Spending on Prisons," New York Times, October 2, 1998, p. A17).

The protest was prompted, in part, by a recent report by the San Francisco-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI), which says that since 1990, under the administration of Governor Pete Wilson (R), the state's budget for higher education decreased by 3% while the budget for corrections increased 60%. The JPI study also showed that five black males are in prison for every black male in a state university (Khaled Taqi-Eddin, et al., "Class Dismissed: Higher Education vs. Corrections During the Wilson Years," Justice Policy Institute, September 1998; Dan Reed, "Report: Gap in Education, Prison Funds," San Jose Mercury News, September 23, 1998; Dion Haynes, "Prison Growth Stealing Funds From Schools, Activists Say," Chicago Tribune, September 23, 1998, sec. 1, p. 3).

The protesters were largely African-American. Angela Y. Davis, the 1960s civil rights activist, now a professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz, watched the protest from the sidelines. "If they don't leave their classrooms for dramatic demonstrations like this, they may not have classrooms," Davis said.

Sean Walsh, a spokesperson for Governor Wilson, said the JPI report is "not worth the tree that was killed to print the paper which this drivel was put on."

Justice Policy Institute - 1622 Folsom St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103, Tel: (415) 621-5661, Fax: (415) 621-5466, Washington Office - Tel: (202) 678-9282, Web: <>.

Office of Governor Pete Wilson - State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814, Tel: (916) 445-2841, Washington Office: 444 N. Capitol St., NW, Suite #134, Washington, DC 20001, Tel: (202) 624-5270.

Angela Y. Davis - History of Consciousness Dept., UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, CA 95064, Tel: (831) 459-0111, E-mail: <>.