California Community Colleges’ budget hinges on Proposition 30

California Community Colleges will cut $338 million in the event that Proposition 30 fails to pass in the November election, CCC Acting Chancellor Erik Skinner said during a conference call held for student newspapers on Sept. 26.

Proposition 30 calls for a raise in sales tax by one-fourth of a cent for four years and an increase in personal income tax rates on annual earnings of more than $250,000 for seven years to fund education. Eleven percent of the earnings would go to community colleges.

Over the past three years, CCC have cut $809 million, which is approximately 12 percent of funding overall, Skinner said.

Since 2008, enrollment has dropped 17 percent, 80 percent of colleges reported longer waitlists for fall classes and 70 percent of colleges have reduced course offerings, according to a survey of community colleges by the Chancellor’s Office. Many colleges will also have to cut staff members, with part-time faculty being the first to go.

“Despite those best efforts, there is nothing colleges can do to overcome those deficits,” Skinner said.

The current budget assumes that Proposition 30 passes. If it does pass, then it “helps prop up education budget for the state,” CCC Vice Chancellor for College Finance & Facilities Planning Dan Troy said.

While CCC would be gaining money from Proposition 30, a lot of it would “not [be] going directly into the classroom,” but rather to pay back deferrals.

If the proposition passes, 20,000 new students would be able to attend college, Troy said.

In addition to the $338 million that would be cut if Proposition 30 fails, community colleges would not receive the $210 million of new money that would be gained if the proposition passed. The approximate $550 million would account for “10 percent of total system funding,” Troy said.

Failure of the proposition would force California community colleges to decrease enrollment by approximately 180,000 students.

Troy said that community colleges “can’t afford that type of devastation,” and that we “would feel that impact in future years.”

In the event that Proposition 30 fails to pass, the state has no further options to help the budget deficit that California colleges face, Skinner said.

Skinner said that colleges “can’t expect much of a recovery in future years.”

The current budget is written as if Proposition 30 has passed because “in part [it] reflects optimism of it passing” as well as Gov. Jerry Brown’s unwillingness to raise taxes “without approval of the people,” Skinner said.

Another proposition on the ballot, Proposition 38, aims to increase personal income tax. However, Propositions 30 and 38 cannot both go into effect. If both were to pass, then whichever received more “yes” votes would be put into effect.

This means that if Proposition 38 gets more “yes” votes in the event that both propositions pass, then community colleges would face the $338 million in trigger-cuts.

Student Senate President Rich Copenhagen spoke during the conference call in order to give a student perspective.

Copenhagen said that the cuts are “very criminal things” and described them as “draconian.”

Copenhagen called community colleges one of the most important parts of California and said “California has devalued higher education.”

“[It’s] Not a matter of politics … this tax proposal is a clear step in the right direction,” Copenhagen said.

Copenhagen said that support services, such as Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, Disability Support Programs and Services, financial aid and CalWORKs need to “protect and empower students who need help.”

He continued on to tell horror stories of students who went homeless trying to finish their degrees because financial aid offices are understaffed as it is and could not process the paperwork fast enough.

While students who are not as reliant on financial aid may get through, cutting the budget would be “devaluing the students who need to be valued the most,” Copenhagen said.

If the proposition fails, Copenhagen said we would be “facing a California that looks very different than it does today.”

Colleges would be unable to train workers, students would be derailed from career paths and California would be “shipping out our successful students to other states,” he said.

Copenhagen said that from a student’s perspective, class size would increase, which “inherently lowers” the quality of education. Part-time faculty would also decrease and campuses would be “losing a lot of innovations” that comes along with part-timers.