Fate of community colleges

Gov. Jerry Brown held up his "Yes on 30" banner and excited City College students and supporters followed.  Kate Paloy | katepaloy.express@gmail.comGov. Jerry Brown held up his "Yes on 30" banner and excited City College students and supporters followed. Kate Paloy | katepaloy.express@gmail.com

Additional reporting by Wendy Aguilar and Daniel Wilson

“You’re in a school. You’re here to learn not just facts, but you’re learning here how to think, and you can open up your minds.”

These were the words of Gov. Jerry Brown in talking to City College students at a rally for Proposition 30 in the campus’ Art Court Theatre Oct. 18.

“When you come to a school, you learn about history,” Brown said. “You learn about the world, you learn about other people. And that’s really what building a society in a civilization is all about.”

Proposition 30, one of the state propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot, is designed to raise sales tax one-quarter cent for four years to fund education and public safety. Additionally, taxes will be increased by a small percentage on individuals who make $250,000 per year—or couples who make $500,000 per year or more.

Brown spoke to about 500 students, faculty and staff on the importance of stopping statewide budget cuts on education. He was joined by City College Student Senate President Taylor Valmores and other state politicians: Darrell Steinberg, California Senate president Pro Tem; Brice Harris, incoming chancellor of California Community Colleges and former chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District; California Assemblyman Roger Dickinson; and Jeff Freitas, secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Teachers.

“The state has been cutting community college courses,” said Brown. “The idea of Proposition 30 is to put some more money into the state coffers so we can pay for schools, and colleges and University of California. This is a crucial opportunity.”

“The cuts overall are about $5.5 billion to education, that’s [kindergarten] through UC and CSU; now, UC and CSU have specific cuts of $250 million each, and then the balance of that, essentially $5 billion is going to come out of kindergarten through community colleges,” said Dickinson. “We know the effects of that are going to be dramatic so what we’re trying to do is stabilize the circumstances so that we at least can start to build back, not go deeper into the hole. That’s what Prop. 30 is all about.”

Education leaders on campus have been using the past few weeks to help educate students on Proposition 30 and the effects it will have on class cuts if the proposition loses. An Oct. 22 forum on the topic was held and voting registration booths have been made available on campus. “We’ve been through a series of cuts over the last few years,” said Jared Anderson, City College communication professor.

“We’ve been cutting our budget, cutting programs. One of the hardest hit areas has been higher education, in particular, community colleges.”

Anderson said that failure of Proposition 30 will lead to another $6 billion cut from the already budget-stricken community college system.

“If [Proposition] 30 does not pass, it is going to become exceedingly difficult for students to go to college in our state schools,” said Anderson. “Particularly in community colleges you’ll be looking at massive cuts to your classes, further than we’ve already cut. There will be a 6 percent salary cut for all of your teachers.”

Raising taxes to raise revenue for the greater good is something voters realize is necessary, said Paul Frank, political science professor.

“I think that Californians in general understand that you need to pay taxes in order to get the things that are valuable to our state like roads and schools and public
safety,” said Frank. “Given the economic crisis that we’ve had, we’re not getting those things.”

Early in October, the organizer who brought Brown to campus and executive director of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Robert Perrone, posted a You-Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watc h?v=OVccymL42lA&feature=youtu.be) to explain to the public the specific effects of Proposition 30 on the Los Rios community colleges.

Perrone stated in the video that if Proposition 30 passes, the district will receive money that will in part restore 470 classes that were cut in past few years, affecting more than 14,000 students.He also said the district would be able to employ 50 more part-time faculty.

He stated that if the proposition is not approved, the district will be forced to cut 595 more classes and part-time professor assignments of 315. Additionally, faculty salaries will be reduced 6 percent and health care premiums will increase.

“Vote wisely,” Perrone said at the close of the video. Frank said he believes the passage of Proposition 30 is an investment in students’ futures.

“Right now there aren’t a whole lot of jobs out there, but when there are, we won’t have students who are prepared for that– other states will, other countries will,” Frank stated. “So I think, personally, that this is an investment. Prop. 30 would stand to spread the pain in terms of an income tax for high-wage earners.”

“School is the pillar,” Brown told students at the rally. “Community college is the base. And Proposition 30 is the way forward by which we pay the bills that will provide our future. And you are the future. And together we will win.”