“Occupy” Movements Put a Spotlight on Inequities in Education

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

Since mid-September, the Occupy Wall Street movement has confronted an issue that had previously garnered little public attention– the large structural inequalities in the U.S. economy. The Occupy movement includes a wide array of grievances, most of which revolve around income inequality and perceived corporate greed. It is striking, for example that the top 1% of the population in terms of income garnered 9% of total national income in 1976, but 24% in 2010. This income gap has inspired the “We are the 99 Percent” message that has united the economic justice movement. Both the Ford Foundation’s From Here 2 Fair project and the Brookings Institute’s recent report “Not So Demanding, Why Occupy Wall Street Need Not Make Demands (Yet)” document the immense economic power of the top 1% and the economic injustice and political dysfunction that has caused this inequality.

Campus activism comprises a substantial part of the Occupy movement and is particularly vocal about in equities in education, and education issues are often at the center of campus “teach-ins,” rallies, and sit-ins. Student organizers have specifically called attention to the inequitable provision of K-12 public education services across the country–many outlining the need for a national model of educational access and affordability– and have spoken out against the heavy reliance on inherently inequitable property taxes for basic school funding.

The Occupy Cal Berkeley movement has demanded a re-instatement of budget cuts for education, the repeal of the property cap requirements of “Proposition 13”, freeing college students from unsustainable levels of debt, and putting an end to the privatization of public education; a full list of their demands can be seen here. The Occupy Harvard movement states, among other things,  that:

  • A university for the 99% would offer academic opportunities to assess responses to socioeconomic inequality outside the scope of mainstream economics.
  • A university for the 99% would implement debt relief for students who suffer from excessive loan burdens.
  • A university for the 99% would end the privilege enjoyed by legacies in the Harvard admissions process.

Their complete state of principles can be seen here. These types of demands have emboldened others to speak out against the rising disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged youth.

Notably, Occupy sympathizers have called upon Wall Street and the wealthy to pay higher taxes to offset the increasing cost of public services, including: medical care provision, public K-12 educational services, higher education costs, and unemployment benefits. The protesters have utilized a variety of techniques, famously including the encampments of parks and disruption of public meetings, to draw attention to the income chasm between the 1% and the 99%.

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