Time for California to Fully Fund Higher Education

Budgeting is a matter of priorities. Just ask any family who budgets monthly. The necessities always take priority. In that sense, state budgeting is no different. Education, infrastructure, health care, public safety and the safety net, among other essential services, should all be paramount.  And the workers who deliver those services ought to be able to count on a living wage and decent benefits.

Yet when it comes to higher education, which most Californians agree is a top priority, our state’s colleges and universities are perennially underfunded. That must change.  Our state’s economy – as well as our future – depends on it.

The Reclaim California Higher Education coalition is on the front lines of fighting to fully fund community colleges, California State universities and the UC system.

In a letter to Gov. Brown signed by the leaders of 15 organizations that represent workers in the University of California, CSU and community college systems, the Reclaim California Higher Education coalition called for increased funding to prevent tuition hikes and support increased enrollment, as well as enhanced support for student services, frontline faculty and staff that were hardest hit by recession related budget cuts.

“California must renew its commitment to its public colleges and universities, so it may once again provide an affordable education and be an engine of economic growth and good jobs in our communities,” said Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 2010.

The coalition has also asked the state to direct its funding in a way that promotes greater student success and demands greater accountability from higher education administrators, consistent with their public missions and vital importance to the state’s economy.

For the UC system, the coalition reiterated its call for no student tuition increases and proposed $150 million to support enrollment growth of 5,000 in-state residents, more student aid, and smaller class sizes; as well as institutional reforms ranging from limits on executive compensation to improved transparency and higher standards around outsourcing.

“Under no circumstances are tuition increases acceptable,” said Anke Schennink, Financial Secretary of the UAW Local 5810, “We will not agree to balance our budgets on the backs of students.”

Jelger Kalmijn, President of UPTE-CWA, Local 9119 stated that “UC funding should be tied to reasonable accountability measures consistent with UC’s mission and values, such as limits on executive compensation, an end to lobbying and funding that opposes Research Assistant collective bargaining rights, no outsourcing of vital services that can be done more effectively in-house, and eliminating poverty and substandard pay for many UC employees and sub-contracted workers; most of whom are women, people of color and immigrants.”

For California State University system, the coalition has proposed an additional $100 million in funding to ensure the long-term success of the system.

“We thank the Governor for the $25 million in one-time funds for deferred maintenance,” said Pat Gantt, President of the California State University Employees Union. “However, we still need $100 million in additional funding to support the enrollment of 10,000 more in-state residents that will provide greater access to the CSU system, to hire more faculty for added classes, and more instructional support staff to serve those students.”

For Community Colleges, the coalition has proposed that current funding be directed to specific components of student success, including the conversion of part-time faculty positions to full-time, as well as compensation for part-time faculty office hours, the provision of health benefits for part-time faculty, and equal pay for equal work for part-time faculty (also known as “parity”) The coalition supports the community college system’s request for $25 million for professional development of faculty, staff, and administrators.

“We thank the Governor for the support he has shown thus far for student services, and the much needed additional $125 million in base funding,” said Omar Paz, President of the Student Senate for the California Community Colleges. “However, we would like that funding to be specified to go where it is needed most. As it is, we have no guarantee that the Colleges will spend that money on student success.”