California's Proposition 30
Why doesn’t College of the Desert open more classes to allow all the students on waiting lists into the courses they need?
If you are asking this question, keep reading. Although most people’s eyes glaze over at the mention of budgets and legislative funding, there really is a connection between the decisions our legislators make in Sacramento and these issues at College of the Desert.
California Community Colleges
First some background to put all this into perspective. Do you know the California Community College system is the largest institution of higher education in the country, 112 campuses, with more than 2.4 million students? Community colleges are the largest workforce training provider in the state by far. They also feed into our four-year universities significantly. Fifty-five percent of the graduates of the California State University system (23 campuses) started their college education at a community college. Thirty percent of the graduates of the University of California system (10 campuses) started at a community college. Unlike the universities, community colleges have an open-access policy. They have the most undiscriminating admission policy in higher education; if you want to learn, you can attend.
Community College Funding
Moreover, the California Community College system is the most cost efficient. While the state revenue needed to support one full-time community college student is slightly more than $5,000 per year, that same student costs approximately $7,500 in the K-12 system, $11,000 in the Cal State system, and $20,000 in the UC system.
Unlike the universities, community colleges do not control their student enrollment, the fees they charge, or their operating budget. The California State Universities and the University of California campuses set their own student fees and can raise these fees to make up for budget shortages. For community colleges, the number of students served and the amount of fees charged to students are established by the State legislature, not the individual campuses.
A record-high percentage of Californians (67%) say jobs and the economy are the most important issues facing the state today. California Community Colleges play an essential role in restoring California’s economy because strong economic recovery depends on a highly-skilled workforce. Community colleges offer associate degrees and short-term job training certificates in more than 175 fields to meet the demands for a skilled workforce including 70% of the state’s nurses, 80% of firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians. A 2009 study from the Public Policy Institute of California found that California will face a shortage of one million educated workers by the year 2025. That’s only 13 years away.
Why, then, has the state cut the budget of the California Community Colleges by $809 million, or 12%, since the 2008-2009 fiscal year? These budget cuts have led to reduced enrollment and limited crucial services at a time when demand for community college education has soared. It is estimated that the community college student population has decreased by 485,000 students over these last three years due to budget cuts. That’s more students than currently attend all 23 of the CSU campuses! When the state needs to increase its skilled workforce, we’re headed in the wrong direction.
Proposition 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education
The facts above explain the reason for the Governor’s initiative on this November’s ballot. Proposition 30 benefits the K-12 and community college systems in the state and College of the Desert’s portion has been calculated. Keep in mind, College of the Desert’s budget has been cut $5 million over the last three years already.
If Proposition 30 fails, College of the Desert’s budget would be cut by $2,361,524 THIS YEAR. The college’s fiscal year began July 1, so its budget for this year conservatively assumed that the ballot measure would fail. In other words, we have already absorbed this reduction in this year’s budget, but the failure of the ballot measure would mean ongoing cuts in the coming years and the college would have to further reduce the number of course sections, reduce/renegotiate employee compensation, use reserves, and possibly borrow in the years to come.
If Proposition 30 passes, College of the Desert will realize the additional funding this year of $2,361,524 and would be able to offer more classes in the Spring 2013 semester than is currently planned. Passage would affect COD positively this academic year and the years ahead. Here is a link to the Legislative Analyst’s summary of Proposition 30.
It is important that voters (you ARE registered to vote, right?) understand the benefits to schools and public safety of this temporary increase in sales taxes (0.25%) and in the marginal income tax rates for individuals making over $250,000. The measure needs a simple majority of voters, and currently is polling 52-56% in favor. So where does the money come from?
Specifically, Proposition 30:
· Raises the state’s sales tax by 0.25% (one-quarter cent) from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016.
· Raises marginal personal income tax rates on filers making over $250,000 (joint filers earning $500,000) in a progressive manner by 1% to 3% for tax years 2012 through 2018.
Revenue estimate (in millions):
· 2011-12: $2,816
· 2012-13: $4,872
· 2013-14: $5,671
· 2014-15: $6,098
· 2015-16: $6,402
· 2016-17: $5,977
· 2017-18: $5,434
· 2018-19: $2,216
All of the California community colleges have implemented significant cost saving measures and creatively developed efficiencies to withstand the budget cuts, but they cannot continue on the same trajectory without negatively impacting the future of the California economy. Proposition 30 is a step in the right direction.