THE BLOG
06/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

AB 656: A Movement Both Online and Off

The movement to save higher education is building momentum on the streets and on the Internet.

Californians understand the stakes. Over the past ten years, fee increases and painful budget cuts have undermined a system of higher education that was once the envy of the nation. These cuts in college programs and increases in fees are creating an ever-higher barrier to a quality education at exactly the moment when we should be investing in this proven economic engine.

The numbers speak for themselves. For every dollar invested in higher education, California nets $3 in return. Investing in higher education is the smartest choice California can, and should, make right now to jumpstart our economy.

For months, students - as well as faculty and community leaders - have been marching and holding rallies to make their voices heard. On March 22, nearly 5,000 students from San Diego to Sonoma marched to the Capitol steps in Sacramento, demanding solutions to save higher education.

One of the most immediate and important solutions is AB 656.

My bill, AB 656: Fair Share for Fair Tuition, is a simple and fair solution to funding higher education. A 12.5% severance fee on Big Oil will raise $2 billion a year for California's colleges and universities.

Thanks to the grassroots and netroots, AB 656 is more than just a bill; it's a movement.

75,000 Californians have already signed support cards, nearly reaching our goal of 100,000 - making Fair Share for Fair Tuition one of the most successful grassroots efforts in California's legislative history. Tens of thousands more have joined us online, with nearly 12,000 supporters on Facebook alone.

By using the powerful tools of online communities, we continue to organize this movement, to build more support and to share personal stories about the effects of the budget cuts.

One of the most personal wall posts on Facebook came from Maureen Feller who wrote:

My son is dropping out of college after the spring semester. As a freshman this year, with all the budget cuts, we can honestly say the whole experience has been a nightmare. How sad is it that we no longer invest in our youth?

Maureen's experience is, unfortunately, shared by too many others throughout California.

The battle to save higher education can be won if we work together, stand together and fight together. And online tools like Facebook are helping disparate supporters throughout California to unite, in solidarity, to save higher education. A closed mouth goes unfed, and it's time our collective voices speak louder than ever.

Today, April 6, we are holding a rally in Los Angeles where students, faculty, members of the community and elected leaders will unite to bring our message to Big Oil - pay a fair share for fair tuition. Reid Milburn, President of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, and other community leaders will speak on education as the key to California's future. Learn more about our past rallies across the state at AlbertoTorrico.com/CampaignTrail.

Help us reach our goal of 100,000 supporters and activate your friends and family to get involved too. Join the movement on Facebook.com/FairTuition and sign our petition at AlbertoTorrico.com/TakeAction.

ALBERTO TORRICO (D-Fremont) is the bill-author for AB 656: Fair Share for Fair Tuition and is a candidate for Attorney General.