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State budget analyst Critisizes Governor's plan

From The University Times at Cal State LA No.184.3

 

(Los Angeles – UT) Governor Schwarzenegger has announced his plan to close the $14.5 billion state gap, by taking $1.1 billion from California’s public colleges and universities, forcing fee increases and limiting enrollment. The education sector – like virtually all state-funded programs—will be undergoing severe belt-tightening under the governor’s plan.

 

Over $312 million of that cut will come from the CSUN system. Tuition increases are already predicted to be raised a minimum of 10% during the next year. With the upcoming budget cuts, the increase may become even steeper. To limit enrollment, the length of the application period will be cut, and fewer classes may be added.

 

The state’s chief budget analyst Elizabeth Hill criticized the governor’s plan for not being effective. At a news conference on Monday, Hill said the governor’s plan will not properly prioritize how the state should spend its money. She argued that governor uses questionable accounting methods that will be unnecessarily disruptive to schools and community colleges.

 

“It reflects little effort to prioritize and determine which state programs provide essential services or are most critical for California’s future,” Hill said.

 

The governor’s plan is a blueprint for the next 18 months, during which there will be a series of deep spending reductions in government services to bring the state’s books into balance. From an assessment of this plan, Hill has written a report which analyzes how effective the spending will be, and where it is flawed.

 

In declaring the cuts the governor pulled the trigger for the first time on a little-known provision in “Proposition 58” which passed in March 2004. The Legislature will have to convene next month to deal with this year’s $1.9 billion budget shortfall. If the Legislature does not pass legislation in 45 days to address the problem, it cannot act on other bills or adjourn.

 

Last November the CSU Board of Trustees approved a budget request to the state for next fiscal year which assumed a $322 million budget increase. The governor’s proposal, if approved, will mean a budget that is nearly $650 million short of the Trustees projection. The CSU Chancellors office has suggested the Governor’s cuts will affect the CSU system as follows:

         The cuts will reduce access to the CSU. Nearly 10,000 qualified students will be turned away because the CSU can not financially accommodate them.

         The cuts will be detrimental to the state’s economic engine especially in areas of Nursing, education, and criminal justice. CSU graduates comprise over two-thirds of new workforce entries in these fields.

         The cuts will particularly hurt long-time prospects of students from underserved communities to attend the university.

 

Meanwhile, the California Faculty Association (CFA) is also promising to “stand up for the CSU System” in opposing the cuts. CFA points out that the proposed $312 million in cuts to the CSU system will equate to an $875 drop in per-pupil spending.

 

“This proposal just doesn’t add up,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz. “Under this budget, students will again be asked to pay more for their education while receiving less from the state. Professor Schwarzenegger needs to enroll himself in a remedial math class and come back with a better budget plan.”

 

CFA leaders say during the 2002 budget crisis the CSU was cut by a half billion dollars. The lost funding was never restored and the CSU received $383 million less in state general funds in 2006/07 than it did in 2002/03 when adjusted for inflation.

 

The governor’s dramatic budget found two ardent adversaries suddenly playing on the same team. The press releases from both the California Faculty Association and Chancellor Charles Reed’s office were practically identical. Only short months ago, the CFA and Reed were bashing each other over salary contract negotiations. It would be hard to imagine more unlikely allies that the CFA’s Lillian Taiz and Chancellor Reed. But in the face of the governor’s proposed spending plan, they spoke with one voice appealing to legislators to maintain vital levels of education support.

 

The California Legislature will be addressing the proposed budget cuts in the next 45 days.

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