Volume 46 Number 2
Legislature facing special session
With California’s budget already falling $6 billion into the red and the Legislature facing a special session in December to address the shortfall, it remains uncertain what will happen to funding for public schools and community colleges.
California’s state budget for education was 100 days late and several billion short when it was passed on Oct. 8, but it represented an improvement over what was initially proposed earlier in the year.
“Now, we’re not really sure what will happen,” said CCA President Ron Norton Reel. “Whether there is a special session of the legislature or not, it’s clear that our new governor will have a lot of work to do when he is sworn in on January 3.”
On top of the astonishing $17 billion in cuts to schools imposed over the past two years, under the recently passed budget, California’s students will receive $4.3 billion less than they are owed under Proposition 98, the minimum school funding guarantee. The budget agreement also fails to provide any new, stable revenue streams for schools.
Some new funding
Nevertheless, the budget passed on Oct. 8 provides community colleges with $206 million in new funds. That includes:
2.21 percent enrollment growth ($126 million)
• $35 million to backfill categorical cuts imposed in 2010-11 (replacing the federal ARRA stimulus fund backfill)
• $25 million for the Economic and Workforce Development program to “meet emerging workforce needs”
• $20 million for Career Technology programs no cost-of-living adjustment (positive or negative).
The new budget defers $189 million of the funds promised to the colleges until next year.
“While disappointing, it will help structure next year’s budget,” Reel said.
California Community College Chancellor Jack Scott was pleased that the Legislature agreed to augment the budget to help the colleges serve more students in 2010-11, as well as expand the much needed workforce training programs.
“We’re still faced with the fact that far more students want to attend a community college than our funding will allow,” Scott said. “Even with these increases in our budget, policymakers need to understand the demand for a community college education is continuing to outstrip the resources. This will have a severe impact on the economic recovery of our state because our system is the largest provider of workforce training.”
Community colleges are serving about 200,000 students for which they are receiving no remuneration, according to Scott.
Though the current budget agreement represents an improvement over the May Revision budget proposal because it rejects billions more in cuts to schools proposed by the Governor, it still shortchanges students in California at a time when education is the single most important factor in assuring our state’s long-term economic and job growth. The continued use of accounting maneuvers, such as a $1.7 billion deferral, (bringing total deferrals from the past three years to $7 billion) only “kicks the can” further down the road, creating even more problems for public schools next year, according to the Education Coalition, which represents more than 2.5 million teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, school employees and other education advocates.
With no long-term fixes, nor additional, stable revenues in place to guarantee students the education they deserve, the billions in funding delays included in this proposal essentially serve as cuts to students who will never be able to “do over” their current school year.