Magazine Article

Election victory sets stage for budget restoration
While funding increase helps, some policy changes raise concerns

Erma Jean Sims (Elementary Education, Sonoma) participated in a ‘Yes on 30, No on 32’ phone bank with fellow educators. The work done by faculty to help pass Proposition 30 last fall was critical in winning much-needed funding for the CSU.
By Peter Kreysa
Chair, CFA Political Action & Legislative Committee Family and Consumer Sciences, Long Beach

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown introduced his state budget proposal for the 2013/14 fiscal year. While the governor emphasized that this budget will ask the state to “live within-our-means,” it does provide much-needed funding boosts for public higher education.

The plan would provide the CSU with a funding increase of $125.1 million. CFA praised the governor’s approach.

“This budget proposal is the first step in restoring a prosperous future for California,” says CFA President Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at CSU Los Angeles. “We appreciate the governor’s commitment to public higher education and, in particular, to keeping the CSU affordable for our students.”

The governor also proposed to step up future funding for the CSU by 5 percent in academic year 2014/15 and 4 percent in each of the subsequent two years.

Budget Proposes Problematic Policy Changes

While the funding portions of the budget plan are a positive for the CSU, the governor proposed some policy changes that raise concerns for CSU faculty.

The governor would direct $10 million of the $125.1 million increase to experiment with online education aimed at so-called “bottleneck courses.”

For the second year in a row, the governor has proposed changing the law concerning CSU contributions to pay for faculty health insurance. Currently, government code specifies that CSU management pay for health insurance for employees and for 90 percent of the weighted average cost for faculty dependents.

The governor’s change would give CSU management leverage to impose higher costs on CSU employees increasing the cost of our healthcare contributions significantly as a result.

CFA strongly opposes this change and is working to have it removed from the budget proposal. These issues should be addressed at the bargaining table.

Gov. Brown would have each higher ed system cap the number of classes students can take at 150 percent of what is necessary to complete most degrees—270 quarterly units at UC and 180 semester units at CSU. That cap would shrink further after two years. Students could continue taking classes but would have to pay full price rather than the in-state-supported fees. The governor believes this will force more students to finish on time and free up resources for new students.

These proposals have far-reaching implications for CFA members and our students.

Union leaders emphasize that the initial budget developments represent just the opening salvo in a months-long debate on the state budget.

“While we have concerns about some of the policy proposals in the budget, there is sufficient time to have a thorough discussion to address these policies,” says CFA President Taiz.

 

Election Victory Key to Funding

The Governor’s budget unveiling followed the November election in which voters spoke out unequivocally in favor of protecting education at all levels. Not only did they enthusiastically endorse Proposition 30 but they also elected a record seven current or former CSU or UC faculty members to the state legislature to serve as stalwarts of public higher ed.

Perhaps most importantly, the passage of Prop 30 not only prevented a mid-year cut to the state university in 2012 but it rolled back tuition/student fees. The governor provides for this in his 2013 budget by backfilling $125 million in CSU resources that the system refunded to students and their families as a result of the tuition rollback last fall.

“CFA members worked tirelessly for Prop. 30 in the hope that we can stop the harm caused by years of funding cuts,” says Taiz. “Now we are beginning to see the fruit of that hard work.”

More Work to Do

While January’s budget news is a welcome change of direction for the CSU, this state budget plan will not correct for all the deep cuts to the CSU system over the past decade. As budget cuts grew to the hundreds of millions of dollars, student fees rose dramatically, faculty salaries flat-lined, and educational opportunity faded.

The reduced investment resulted in fewer faculty, larger class sizes, fewer class offerings, burgeoning student debt, fewer admissions, and longer matriculation rates.

Taiz says, “We look forward to working with CSU Chancellor Timothy White in a constructive way to continue to publicly advocate for the resources our university needs to turn around a decade of disinvestment.” Plenty of work remains to be done,” she said.

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