FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, 06 March 2014

CONTACT:
Brett Abrams : 516-841-1105 : brett@fitzgibbonmedia.com
Claire Haas (510)423-2452 chaas@calorganize.org

TODAY: Rallies in LA and SF Demand Big Oil Stop Blocking Education Funding in CA, National “Higher Ed, Not Debt” Campaign Launches

Students and Community in California Take on Big Oil to ReFund Education

CALIFORNIA --  With student debt reaching over $1 trillion and college tuition continuing to skyrocket, dozens of organizations representing students, youth, labor, veterans and policy organizations are coming together to unite their efforts to tackle what has become a student debt crisis in America. Higher Ed, Not Debt -- a new, multi-year campaign to address the twin issues of education debt and college affordability -- will launch on Thursday, March 6, with dozens of events across the country.  Here in California, events will be held in Los Angeles and San Francisco, hosted by ReFund California, a coalition of community, online, and labor organizations across the state.

Los Angeles: College Students and Community Members to Descend on Occidental Petroleum HQ Demanding That Big Oil Stop Blocking Funding for Higher Education.

On Thursday, March 6th at 1pm, College students and community members will hold a rally and press conference in front of the global headquarters of Occidental Petroleum, just blocks from the UCLA campus demanding that the oil company drop its active, financed opposition to the Oil & Gas Extraction Tax and sign the ReFund Education Pledge.

WHO:                       College students and community members
WHAT:                    Rally & Press Conference
WHEN:                    Thursday, March 6, 1:15pm
WHERE:                  Occidental Petroleum global headquarters
                       10889 Wilshire Blvd (corner of Wilshire & Westwood)
CONTACT:             Peter Kuhns, ACCE/ReFund California, (213)272-1141, pkuhns@calorganize.org

San Francisco: Students, Teachers, and Community to call on John Stumpf to modify Wells Fargo Loans to Reduce Student Debt and withdraw Chevron’s opposition to the Oil Extraction Tax.

On Thursday, March 6th at 4:30pm, Students, teachers, and community members will hold a rally and press conference on San Francisco City Hall Steps, to call on San Francisco Resident John Stumpf to ReFund Higher Ed. They will call on Stumpf as CEO of Wells Fargo to modify student loans to promote Higher Ed, Not Debt, and call on him as as a Chevron Board Member to withdraw Chevron’s funded opposition of the Oil Severance Tax that would generate an additional $2 Billion to ReFund California’s Schools and Services.

WHO:                       Students, Teachers, and Community Members
WHAT:                    Rally & Press Conference
WHEN:                    Thursday, March 6, 4:30pm
WHERE:                  San Francisco City Hall, Polk Street Steps
CONTACT:             John Eller, ACCE, (415)725-9869, jeller@calorganize.org

Higher Ed, Not Debt was formed with four key goals: addressing the existing $1.2 trillion of debt; increasing the affordability and quality of higher education; combating the privatization of higher education and the role of Wall Street in compounding the student debt crisis; and sparking civic engagement and political participation among young people.

“It wasn't so long ago that our country understood how accessible, debt-free higher education could ignite the economy, providing good jobs and an educated workforce. California even led the way through our world-famous University of California and California State University systems, but sadly that's all changed. In the last decade, tuition has increased by 114% at the UCs, 134% at CSUs, and 43% at community colleges. Meanwhile, state funding for higher education has fallen 25% since 2009,” explained Dr. Paul Song, executive chairman of the California-based CourageCampaign.org, a group that is a part of the ReFund California Coalition.  “We can stop this trend by joining with other major oil producing states -- like Texas and Alaska -- and passing an oil extraction tax to fund higher education.”

“Big Oil has a toxic influence on California's politics. For years, Big Oil’s infamous lobby groups have been using big money and back-room politics to corrupt legislators, push their corporate agenda, and pull the strings at our State Capitol,” added Song.

More than 10,000 people in California have signed a petition by CourageCampaign.org, demanding their legislators in Sacramento, “refuse any contributions or gifts from Big Oil. California needs an oil extraction tax to provide stable revenue and restore vital services for our people. Please stand with the people of California, not Big Oil and announce your support for an oil extraction tax!”

SIGN THE PETITION HERE:  http://act.couragecampaign.org/sign/BigOilLobbyDay/

Despite some improvement in state funding since the passage of Prop 30, the UC, CSU and Community College systems are still far behind pre-crisis funding levels.  Faced with the need to borrow more and more, both students and the institutions themselves are burdened with sky-rocketing debt.
The ReFund California coalition wants corporate loopholes closed and big corporations to pay their fair share to funding a strong and healthy California.  Senator Noreen Evans has introduced SB 1017, a bill that would tax oil extraction in the state of California. While every other major oil producing state has such a tax, California does not. If passed, SB 1017 would generate $2 billion per year, which would increase funding for higher education, as well as K-12 and other essential services.

ReFund California is a coalition of groups who have come together to build public and political support for holding big corporations and the 1% accountable to the needs of families and communities and making them pay their fair share to fund education, vital services and solutions to get our economy back on track. Earlier today, Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and others to speak at the kickoff this new campaign—Higher Ed, Not Debt—aimed at protecting affordable access to higher education for all, without the burden of debt or financial hardship. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://higherednotdebt.org/blog/official-launch-higher-ed-debt

For interviews with CourageCampaign.org, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at brett@fitzgibbonmedia.com.

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