Community Colleges Seek Restoration of Budget Funds

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Glendale Community College may see restoration of some of the funds cut by Gov. Gray Davis if the California legislature has its way.

Senate Bill 735, passed Sept. 12, seeks to reinstate the entire community college budget cuts, which amounted to $126 million. The money was meant to go toward maintenance and instructional supplies for the nearly 100 schools in the California community college system.

However, Davis is only considering restoring less than half the money – roughly $50 million.
Those protesting Davis’ slighting of the community colleges include members of the Glendale College Teachers Guild, various other unions and student organizations, the statewide academic senate, the Community College League of California, and the state legislature, where there is an overwhelming push for Davis to sign the bill. Supporters of Senate Bill 735 include Glendale-area State Sen. Jack Scott, formerly president of Pasadena City College.

Early this month the ASGCC launched a postcard campaign to persuade the governor to reconsider the cuts. “The main thing that we’re applauding is you folks [the students],” said Lynn McMurrey, Dance Department chair and president of the Glendale College Teacher’s Union Local 2276.
“That is what’s going to change the governor’s mind. This is finally what made him, I think, bend to even consider signing this bill.”

According to a recent e-mail sent to members of the Teacher’s Union, Gov. Davis’ motivation for restoring only half the community college budget was to determine the political consequences of such an action.

“It’s a trial balloon,” said political science professor John Queen. “He [Davis] wanted to see what kind of opposition he would get.”

The governor’s motivation for running this sort of experiment, according to McMurrey, is because the governor believes that community colleges aren’t important.

“He doesn’t like community colleges,” said McMurrey. “He doesn’t think they’re necessary. He would like to see us become only remedial schools for the four-year schools, and be just that.”

“The governor’s priority is the K-12 schools,” said Vice President of Administrative Services Larry Serot. “His priority also lies in the UC system. The governor doesn’t understand what he is doing to us.”

Queen believes that the state budget will be tightened even further next year because of the power crisis, but that the community colleges will have even more students, causing further cutbacks to school budgets.

“There are serious budgetary problems [in the state],” said Queen. “The economy is slowing down, taxes are going down, and we have an energy crisis. There is not a lot of money to go around.” To compound the problem, the state has allocated funding for only a 4 percent student growth rate, and GCC’s student population grew nearly 11 percent this fall.

“There are no funds for overgrowth,” said Queen.

Last year’s budget was actually larger than projected; however with an increase in the student population this fall semester, that money will be used up.

“The budget has increased 10 percent, but if our student population has increased 20 percent, then there’s a problem,” said McMurrey.

SB 735 was passed by 115 out of 120 votes. Queen said that if the governor decides not to sign the bill it will probably be overridden, which would be an embarrassment to him in a Democratically controlled legislature.

“I think that the governor made an enormous mistake,” said Queen.

“He was very surprised at the . immediate reaction from all sections,” said McMurrey.

Even before the bill was introduced, Davis was already reintroducing small portions of the larger budget – of course, this decision was rejected, as was his effort to reintroduce small portions of the budget with strings attached, meaning that funds could only be used for certain programs as opposed to using the funds for maintenance and instruction equipment.

Serot believes that positive reactions came from the budget debate. First, the community college system and the various organizations that represent united around a cause. “We want to garner public support and send a message to the governor that this is a system that can’t be taken lightly,” he said.

Second, there will be an overwhelming push for funds to be fully restored for the 2002-2003 school year, if they aren’t restored this year.

“It’s taken 20 years to get this money into the budget and to build up this kind of support,” said Serot. “We are not prepared to give it up.”