Budget Cuts Spark Town Meeting and Campus Protest

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU
El Vaquero Staff Writer

At a town hall meeting held Saturday in Burbank’s Buena Vista Library, GCC President/Superintendent John Davitt outlined effects Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget will have on California’s community colleges and the effect it is having now.

Hosted by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena and Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, the standing-room only crowd listened as representatives from various agencies around Los Angeles presented their cases against budget cuts Davis has made as a result of the $35 billion deficit gripping the state.

Davis is proposing cuts of at least $225 million for the California community college budget. And it was announced late Friday by the Community College League of California an additional $38 million may be cut from the California community colleges due to less-than-projected results from property taxes and student fee revenues. The additional cuts come at a time when the California community college system may see as much as $1 billion cut from its budget in the next 18 months.
GCC has lost about $2 million this year. According to Vice President of Instructional Services Steve White, GCC may face cuts up to $4 million to $6 million next year.

GCC cut 52 classes for the spring 2003 semester, and more than 160 classes have been cut this year alone. Longer lines in admissions have caused headaches and worries to students who are unable to get into required classes for transfer and graduation. Departments such as the library have had to freeze spending on supplies and cut hours.
Student fees may also go up. Davis’ budget would increase fees to as much as $24 per unit.

“California community colleges represent a huge investment in the future of the state,” Davitt said. “Cuts next year would devastate the community colleges and our mission. The community colleges should be the last agency that goes down the tubes.”

Davitt also raised concerns about mandates which have put GCC in a difficult position. The state requires GCC to hire faculty and to provide various services to students such as Disabled Student Program Services and EOPS. However, because there are no funds to adequately meet the mandates, Davitt feels there should be more flexibility on mandates or funds should be provided to the college in order to satisfy them.

“The Senate and the Assembly did not accept the governor’s recommendations on the mid-year cuts,” Scott said. “We simply took the cuts that the community college system itself felt that it could absorb.”

As far as raising fees, Davitt said he believes there would be support for any fee increase that takes place over a length of time, as opposed to a sudden increase, and in turn provides additional funds for the college.

But regardless of whether fees go up to $24, GCC would see none of the extra revenue since most of it would go to the state to balance the budget.

At a rally held Feb. 20 in Plaza Vaquero, students had an opportunity to voice their concern over Davis’ proposed budget. The rally, organized by Associated Students of Glendale Community College, was the first among a series of events planned for the spring semester. GCC students will travel to Sacramento on March 17 for a series of protests in and around the state capitol. They will be joined by other students from community colleges around the state.

“Only by getting our voice heard . we will have a chance to improve the current situation and prevent next year’s situation from getting even worse,” said ASGCC President Antonino Patti.

“I’m very angry that they’re cutting the budget for the community colleges,” said GCC student Jessica Dubron. Dubron, a second-year GCC student majoring in English, hopes that there is strength in numbers as a result of the multiple protests planned for the spring.
“It’s wonderful that the students of Glendale College are taking a position and are expressing their disgust and their anger,” said ethnic studies professor Carlos Ugalde.

While the community college budget dwindles, the UC and CSU systems will be able to keep a third of their funding. History teacher and social sciences division chair Roger Bowerman agrees that community colleges are, in essence, getting swept underneath the carpet.

“It’s hurting the people who can least afford it with the most pain,” Bowerman said. “It’s the perfect example of people with money helping people with money.”

“We know, as a community college, we have to share the pain, but we would like to see other segments of education share equally,” Davitt said.

“I’ll have to work so much more,” said Dubron. “I already work so hard to pay for school. Working will compromise the amount of time I can spend studying and focusing on school.”

Dalia Carlon is a mother of five attending GCC, with three kids in college. “I have two more to go,” said Carlon. “It’s hard enough. It’s really hard. With this [budget cuts] I’m not going to be able to do it.”

“Twenty-four dollars a unit? It’s ridiculous,” said Carlon’s daughter Imogene, a GCC student majoring in music. “In two years I’m supposed to get out of here. I’m probably going to get out in five years.” Though Imogene feels she is lucky to have gotten classes this year, she is uncertain about what will happen next year.

“After the cuts have been made to our education and have been reduced to a pathetic minimum, we will be required to pay for it as well,” said Patti.

According to White, almost 5,000 students applied for classes for the spring semester – 487 were able to get classes.

“We have done everything to avoid cutting classes,” White said. “We’re on the edge of bankruptcy. We are forced to make cuts we don’t want because they [the state] are not funding us at the appropriate level.”

Davitt feels pessimistic about GCC’s financial situation, saying the outlook for next year is grim.