GCC Fights to Restore Funds Cut From Budget

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

On July 26, Gov. Gray Davis slashed $126 million in community college funding as part of a statewide 2001-2002 budget cut.

The move was made in an effort to alleviate debts attributed to California’s recent energy crisis and a national slump in economy. The news came as an unwelcome surprise to GCC and other colleges counting on the money to fund various projects, many of which were already in progress.

The budget cuts hit GCC particularly hard. The college was expecting $608,000 to go to the library as part of an ongoing allocation by the state. The funds would have gone toward the purchase of instructional equipment, books and materials.

The cuts are a serious blow to student programs reliant on external funds, said Ruth McKernan, dean of library and learning resources.

“The `zero sum’ budget for the college means that the college can help pay for the library’s information competency workshops,” said McKernan. “These workshops have been shown to improve student grades in ESL and English classes.”

“The items funded through this money are essential to the instructional program,” said Dr. Chris McCarthy, executive vice president of instructional services. “Many of our students are heavily dependent upon equipment that will allow for hands-on experience.”

Davis appears to have turned his back on the very students he once targeted as a demographic in grave need of a proper education. On his Welcome to California Web site, the governor says, “California’s community colleges, CSUs, and UCs are world class and provide a launching pad for tomorrow’s leaders. Our graduates are literally reinventing the world every day.”

That reinvention will prove difficult to accomplish now that $98 million of the larger budget cut has been removed. Books and materials are not the only necessities schools were relying on to enhance campus quality.

Plans for an Allied Health Building were also shelved as a result of Davis’ decision, leaving expansion of GCC’s highly acclaimed nursing program on hold.

Members of the GCC community are refusing to take this matter lightly. Larry Serot, vice president of administrative services, and John Queen, professor of political science, have collaborated to inform the public on this issue through letters to newspapers.

“The irony is that there is an acute shortage of nurses statewide,” saidSerot. “This building would allow our nursing program to double in size.”

Plans to initiate the project were put into effect after the college received preliminary approval for construction. If the money is restored, GCC will have to gain approval once more before moving ahead.

“If this burden had been distributed fairly, we would have no real complaints,” said Serot. “[However] the community colleges were the only ones to experience a reduction in ongoing appropriations.”

Fortunately, the colleges have the support of local lawmakers like state Sen. Jack Scott and others who introduced a bill to restore funding. On Sept. 6, SB 735 was passed, calling for reconsideration of the budget cuts. The bill will allow for the appropriation of $112,859,000 to California community colleges, and $340,000 of that total will go to GCC for the purpose of continuing plans for the Allied Health Building. Funds were also partially restored and channeled into a number of other projects.

Patrick McCullum, GCC’s legislative advocate, and ASGC President Dan Wengert, have also been active in encouraging a strong student response.

To get involved, visit the student center or contact the governor’s office at (213) 897-0322.