Initiative to secure more community college funding fails in state | SierraSun.com

Initiative to secure more community college funding fails in state

Michelle Locke
Associated Press Writer

BERKELEY (AP) – A plan to secure more state funding for community colleges failed at the polls Tuesday.

Proposition 92 would have lowered community college fees and changed the way state funding is allocated to the huge system ” 2.5 million students on 109 campuses.

Supporters, including the California Federation of Teachers and the California Labor Federation, said the initiative would protect community colleges and create a smarter, higher-earning work force.

Critics said it would have siphoned money away from other areas because it lacked a new source of revenue, a concern considering the state’s looming multibillion-dollar deficit. It was strongly opposed by the California Teachers Association, as well as the University of California and California State University systems.

With 27 percent of precincts reporting, 62 percent of voters opposed Proposition 92 and 38 percent supported it.

Theresa Wheeler, spokeswoman for the No on 92 side, said the campaign was pleased with the outcome. The next step is “to work together with all of public education to ensure that all our schools are properly funded and California students get the education they deserve,” she said.

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At the Yes on 92 campaign, officials said that even without a win, the process has drawn attention to the funding woes of community colleges.

“From our perspective, the story has now been told about the mistreatment and underfunding of community colleges,” said Scott Lay, head of the Community College League of California, a nonprofit association of the state’s 72 community college districts.

Critics of California’s budget process say part of the problem is caused by programs that have built-in spending increases regardless of the state of the economy. Many of those programs stem from voter-approved initiatives that lock in automatic spending but do not come with identified sources of funding.

Supporters of Proposition 92 said that until the process is changed, it is only fair that community colleges get some protection.

Community colleges were once free in California, but fees rose as the economy dipped, hitting a high of $26 per unit before dropping back to the current $20.

Proposition 92 would have reduced fees to $15 per unit and limited future increases. It also would have changed the K-14 formula, with funding for K-12 school staying the same but community college funding being tied to a new growth factor based on the young adult population, which is projected to grow faster than K-12 attendance.