Voters knock down Prop 92 by solid margin
February 7, 2008 2:26 PM
A measure to lock in more funding for the extensive California Community College system was defeated Tuesday, with more than half of voters opposing the proposal to make tuition cheaper for the system’s 2.6 million students.
Supporters said the measure would have secured $300 million per year for at least three years, enabling the system to decrease the per-credit cost of community college from $20 to $15. For a full-time student taking 30 units per academic year, the tuition would have decreased from $600 to $450.
Opponents of Proposition 92 claimed that the only way to acquire the $300 million per year would have been by dipping into the state’s general fund at a time when California is already struggling with a $14.5 billion budget deficit. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the increased spending on community colleges would have reached nearly $1 billion in the first three years.
“Voters saw that Proposition 92 was really flawed,” said Theresa Wheeler, campaign manager for the No on 92 campaign. “There wasn’t enough detail explaining how the money would be used, and when people looked closer, they saw that.”
Fifty-seven percent of state voters rejected the measure. In San Francisco County, 51 percent voted against it. Nearly 56 percent voted no in Contra Costa County, which sent 302 students from its three community colleges to SF State last year.
Jennifer Wonnacott, cam-paign spokesperson for the Community Colleges League of California, which ran the Yes on 92 campaign, said the defeat was disappointing, but increased public awareness of the plight of the system.
“From our perspective, the story of the under-funding and mistreatment of our community colleges has been told to the public,” Wonnacott said. “The one thing that remains clear through all of this is that Californians support community colleges.”
Community colleges serve as a feeder for CSUs, offering associate degrees and fulfilling two-year general education requirements for many BA programs. In 2007, more than 46 percent of students at SF State were transfers, according to the Office of University Budget and Planning, with 551 students coming from City College of San Francisco.
“As the state’s largest provider of workforce training, the community colleges are critical to maintaining a healthy, growing economy,” said Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the community college system, in a statement.
Jo Volkert, vice president of enrollment management at SF State, did not anticipate lack of funding for community colleges would affect the number of future transfer students.
“In past years, even when fees went up to $26 per unit at community colleges, there was no attributable decline in students transferring,” Volkert said. “No matter what the cost has been, we have always had a steady flow of students transferring from community colleges.”
Had it passed, the measure would have also strengthened the California community college governing board, broadening its powers and firming its structure in the state Constitution.
Opponents of the measure were concerned it would draw resources away from public K-12 schools, as well as the California State University and University of California systems by placing the community college system in its own funding segment.
“It’s good for the CSU that Propostion 92 didn’t pass,” said CSU spokesman Paul Browning. “The money it would have redirected from the General Fund would have been a big expense to the CSU and UC systems.”
In addition to potentially hurting the CSU and UC systems, Browning said Propositon 92 left little discretionary revenues for state financial aid programs including Cal Grants.
Propostion 92 would have calculated the funding for community colleges based on the growth of college-age residents and unemployment rates.
Currently, funding is calculated based on the growth of K-12 students in public schools, a formula established by Propopsiton 98 in 1988. The proposition mandates the state must allocate 40 percent of its general fund to K-12 schools and community colleges.
The CCC system is the largest such system in the nation, comprised of 72 districts and 109 colleges. More than 2.6 million students are enrolled in the system each year, according to the California Community Colleges System Office.
Funds for higher education in California are already being slashed under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2008-09 budget. According to the CCC office of the Chancellor, the system received a reduction of $225 million. Due to the reduction, the chancellor’s office estimated the system would not be able to serve 525,000 new students next year.
Wheeler said although Proposition 92 was not the solution to funding problems, legislative action between the groups should continue.
“We’re not happy about the disagreement,” she said. “But we are hoping we can work together to fix the education funding problems.”
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