In an act of despotism and disregard for the voice of California voters, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting many of this state’s most vital programs in his most recent budget plan. Education is once again on the legislative chopping block, and public higher education systems — as well as educational preparation programs — are in grave danger.
These cuts, which will disproportionately affect underrepresented minorities and low-income families, threaten to devastate the foundation of public education in California.
Accessibility and affordability will be severely compromised.
This so-called solution is not only detrimental to California’s fiscal future — it threatens to undermine many of the principles on which these endangered institutions were founded.
In addition to public education and affiliated programs, state parks and beaches, drug and disease outreach and rehabilitation programs, and Cal Grants are also facing fiscal fissure. Cutting from these areas denies the California inhabitants most in need of aid the chance to contribute to the fiscal turnaround by forcing them into dependence on social welfare programs while simultaneously driving them away from financial independence.
This is a new rock bottom.
Gradually eliminating the Cal Grant over the next two academic years would reduce the state’s higher education costs by an estimated $173 million in 2009-10 and $450 million in 2010-11, according to the California Department of Finance. However, the fiscal cost is only a superficial survey of the implications this cut might have.
In March, the UC Board of Regents passed a motion approving the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan (BGOP). This program was used as collateral during the latest rounds of fee hikes — advocates assured opponents that low-income families would not be affected by the decision because of scholarship opportunities made available by BGOP which included, in part, Cal Grant funds.
The governor is not acting in the best interest of his constituents, nor is he heeding the advice of the White House. The education stimulus package, introduced earlier this year, promises billions of dollars to public education in every state.
However, should the governor have his way, California may be ineligible to receive these stimulus funds.
According to an April 1 press release from the U.S. Department of Education, each state must meet 2006 education budget levels in order to qualify for federal relief. Additional competitive grants are also available through the “Race to the Top” fund for states demonstrating aggressive pushes for reform.
Disenfranchising the nearly 50,000 UC students receiving Cal Grant money by dissolving that fund does not appear to fit with the president’s call for reform.
The California education budget in 2006-07 allotted $10.8 billion in General Fund support to higher education, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. The 2009-10 budget, not adjusted for inflation, had California’s higher education budget granting an additional $706 million to higher education. However, this budget analysis was drafted before the governor’s proposal, which will cut $10.3 million from UC’s Hastings College of the Law alone — an institution that serves fewer than 1,300 students.
Hastings represents only a small fraction of education casualties. In his May 14 press conference, Gov. Schwarzenegger promised the state that contingent on the special election ballot measures’ failure to pass, $6.4 billion in spending to education would be cut, $1.1 billion of which would be taken from the UC and CSU systems.
If Gov. Schwarzenegger can convince two-thirds of the state’s legislators to support these cuts, California will be up a creek with no federal stimulus paddle.