Editorial: Resisting the attacks on education, inside and outside

by the Fire Inside Editorial Collective
California State government, in the name of ?balancing the budget,? is eliminating virtually all means by which people in prison can get out and stay out. In January 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger?s state address announced a ?change in priorities? in California by proposing a constitutional amendment that would ?guarantee? a shift in funding from prisons to education.
The Governator?s proposal would fund education on the backs of prisoners by privatizing prisons and further cutting prison rehabilitation programs, including health and education! Instead of reducing the prison budget by cutting prison development or by releasing the thousands of prisoners who should be going home, the Gov. and CDCR are eliminating all prison programs that help prepare people to support themselves and their families once they are released.
This includes programs that give term-to-life prisoners a chance to get a date at their parole board hearings.
Let?s be clear?the State is dismantling education overall, inside and outside of prison. And similar to conditions in communities outside, there is a disproportionate impact on people of color and all low income people in prison.
Basic job skills training and self-help programs such as GED and ESL classes, anger management, parenting classes, and substance abuse programs are
being cut or eliminated. Even volunteer-run programs, which all require staff to be present, are being cut as prison staffing is reduced. The Long-termers group at CCWF was told they no longer have a staff member to oversee the program. Resources such as books, lockers, meeting rooms and training positions are also
being slashed. The federal government also withholds education resources when they exclude people with felony drug convictions?even after they are released into the community?from receiving Pell education grants.
There always have been, and always will be, peer educators inside prison?people who teach each other English, how to read and write, exchange information about HIV and HEP C, and discuss how to be better parents and better people. This kind of education occurs because of the commitment and heart of the people inside to teach and support each other, with no pay or recognition to show for it. No budget cuts can stop this human energy for teaching and learning. However, peer education doesn?t meet the CDCR
requirements for programming that is necessary for parole, and it isn?t sufficient to train people for jobs and employment.
Education is a human right. Apparently the state of California has decided that a large part of our population deserves nothing more than being put in a cell
and throwing away the key. CCWP joins with tens of thousands of students, educators and community activists on both sides of the prison walls who oppose
the cuts to education inside and outside of prisons.