Brown targets higher education for budget cuts

January 11, 2011 12:32:28 AM PST
Educators were surprised to learn Monday that K-12 education in California has been spared, while the Cal State and UC systems will each face $500 million in cuts.

This may be Gov. Jerry Brown's first big strategic moves since taking office -- mixing politics and pragmatism -- by hitting higher education, but not K-12, Brown gets the support of education forces, including the unions and the PTAs.

Even members of the teachers' union were surprised to hear the K-12 education system will be spared from cuts.

"I think this is simply reality settling in Sacramento. Children in schools are the future of this state, you don't have a state unless you have education," United Educators of San Francisco spokesperson Dennis Kelly said. "I think Jerry Brown recognizes this and I think he is acting on that."

Monday, Brown said he expects educators, parents and unions will rally behind him to help gather voter support for a $12 billion tax hike.

Arun Ramanathan is with Education Trust West, an education advocacy group. He says voters will also want other guarantees.

"If they are going to pass a proposition for more money for schools then they are also going to pass some good policies to fix our school system," Ramanathan said.

But there was no good news for higher education. The governor proposed drastic cuts there.

Monday, UC President Mark Yudof gave the 10 chancellors specific budget reduction targets. They will report to him in six weeks. Yudof says he will try to avoid a fee increase, but cannot fully commit to this.

In 2009 the UC Board of Regents imposed furloughs days for all employees. There may be talk of that again.

"The furlough program lasted one year but nothing is off the table; we're going to look at everything because of the size of the proposed cut," Yudof's spokesperson Steve Montiel said.

Community colleges will also feel the impact of these cuts, with $400 million being taken from them. Students expect their tuition to increase like it has in the past.

"Pretty irritating, frustrating, especially because I don't have money for college like that," Laney College student Nakeya White said.

According to the governor, even with a fee hike, California's community colleges are still the most affordable in the nation. He emphasized that the people at the lowest income level should be protected because most will continue to receive some type of financial aid.