CSU lobbyists will fight for full funding
January 24, 2008 4:50 PM
Facing the possibility of losing nearly $313 million in state funding, the California State University system is preparing to retaliate.
On Jan. 12, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans to slash services across the state, including higher education, K-12, prisons, health care, parks and many social services that Californians rely on, all in an effort to curb $14 billion in expenditures from an unbalanced 2008-09 state budget.
Now, state legislators have until May to revise the budget, giving a cohesive new force of representatives from the Cal State community a chance to speak for itself.
Students from the California State Student Association, teachers from the California Faculty Association, administrators from the CSU Board and unionized school employees have agreed to issue a joint statement, prepared over this coming week, to address the budget cuts.
Together this group is spreading the message that schools should not be cut because they have proved to be part of the solution to the state’s economic crisis.
“As the public university that prepares the majority of California’s workforce,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said, “these budget cuts will have a direct impact on the state’s economy and on the key industries that our graduates enter such as nursing, teaching, agriculture, business, public administration and technology.”
For every dollar the state invests in the CSU, $4.41 in spending is generated, providing a $13 billion boost annually to the economy and supporting 207,000 jobs in California, according to a 2005 report released by a private firm, ICF Consulting.
John Travis, a former CFA president now working as a lobbyist, said that, in times of economic turmoil, many often return to school to reeducate themselves.
“This is just the wrong time to cut higher education,” he said.
While they say that the governor’s plans to release 22,000 inmates from state prisons early is doable, locking thousands of students out of classrooms would be a mistake.
Advocates also argue that the return of veterans or active duty servicemen from the Iraq War make public colleges very important in helping them return to society.
Last July, CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor Allison Jones testified in front of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in favor of California’s “Troops to College” initiative.
At the most recent board meetings, the CSU Chancellor has said that the school system will not stop with merely asking for the $312.9 million in general funds back, but are expecting an additional $74 million to avoid a 10 percent student fee increase.
But while the CSU argues that rising costs would hurt students and a budget cut would deny access to 10,000 students, some legislators are taking into account the system’s recent history of perceived mismanagement and remaining skeptical.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) has been “frustrated” with reports from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that top CSU and UC administrators are being lavishly compensated in a time of economic crisis, spokesman Adam Keigwin said.
“He’s not interested in writing a blank check to higher education, but his commitment is to make sure students don’t suffer,” Keigwin said. “We certainly listen to the students and faculty much more attentively than we do trustees and administrators.”
If the CSU budget is not restored, faculty members stand to possibly lose a salary raise they bargained hard for last year. The contract, according to Travis, leaves open the possibility that the Board of Trustees could reopen negotiation if it is forced to slash campus budgets.
For the time being, the employee union remains focused on the lobbying effort, which, spokeswoman Alice Sunshine said, Reed and Trustee Roberta Achtenberg seem “fully committed to.”
Meanwhile, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has issued a report on the governor’s budget proposal that praises him for dealing with the crisis head-on, but criticizes him for slashing funds across the board.
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill said, “the administration’s budget reductions reflect little effort to prioritize and determine which state programs provide essential services to California’s future.”
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