Arnold’s Education Plan Unknown

Benoit LeBourgeois, Associate Editor, Benoit LeBourgeois, Associate Editor, and Benoit LeBourgeois, Associate Editor

The recent surprising gubernatorial election of Arnold Schwarzenegger has generated a lot of interest in the possible impact of his yet-unstated policies.
After enduring a 63 percent tuition fee increase in the Fall semester, students are curious of the governor-elect’s intentions. The debate over the cause and the parties responsible for the historic State budget shortfall have eased, but the financial outlook remains bleak.
City College’s budget woes are the result of two directives, set against a post-Prop. 13 landscape that shifted the funding of education from local to statewide sources.
The legislative funding has never matched the voter-approved mandate of Prop. 98, which sought to increase monies earmarked for kindergarten through community colleges. City College President John Romo said that the K-12 institutions did get more funding due to a very politically powerful constituancy. But the community college obligations were “never honored.”
“The legislature found a way around giving community colleges their allocations,” Romo said.
Faced with ever-increasing costs and statutory constraints on its ability to spend limited discretionary dollars, the Legislature in Sacramento shifted the burden of retirement and worker’s compensation funds to the colleges. City College’s $59 million 2002/2003 operating budget took an almost $5 million hit that was cushioned primarily by not filling vacant positions and cutting back the number of part-time employees.
Romo said the additional expenditures did not affect core instruction and educational programs. Vice president of business services Joe Sullivan said City College is one of only two in the state that didn’t have layoffs in the last fiscal year.
All parties agree it is far too early to anticipate the changes that will occur under governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership.
“To try and predict what the actual impact of having Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor if very difficult right now,” Romo said.
“It is too early and we don’t have a clue,” Jack Friedlander, executive vice president for Educational Programs, agreed. “It is true speculation at this point.”
With only one month on the job, Sullivan likewise cannot predict the future. “He is an unknown. When you have uncertainty, you have major speculation,” he said.
Romo noted that the governor-elect has positioned himself as the education governor, but he said no specifics have been brought forward. By law, the new governor must forward the State budget to the Legislature by Jan. 10, 2004.
Without a budget several months past the July deadline, and with the ever-present fear of a new round of budgetary pressures, Romo remains optimistic. “The governor has implied he is going to be concerned with the issue of funding equity,” he said.
“We have cut all we can. If we have to take further cuts, it will be very, very hard,” Romo said. “If we are betting, I would bet there won’t be any new fee increases.”