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Calif. Governor Proposes Amending Constitution to Bolster Higher Education

Calif. Governor Proposes Amending Constitution to Bolster Higher Education 1

Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a requirement that California spend more on higher education than it does on prisons in his final State of the State address on Wednesday.

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close Calif. Governor Proposes Amending Constitution to Bolster Higher Education 1

Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a requirement that California spend more on higher education than it does on prisons in his final State of the State address on Wednesday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California proposed a constitutional amendment in his State of the State address on Wednesday that would require the state to spend more money on higher education than it does on prisons.

The proposal, which would face large hurdles before it could become law, would dedicate billions of dollars in new state support for California's struggling colleges and universities. The plan follows decades in which spending on the state's growing prison population has exploded while spending on higher education has declined.

Under the proposal, California would be required to spend no less than 10 percent of its annual budget on public colleges and universities and no more than 7 percent on prisons. The state currently spends 11 percent on prisons and 7.5 percent on higher education, said Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

"What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns?" Mr. Schwarzenegger said in his final State of the State address. "It simply is not healthy."

The proposal has a difficult road ahead. For it to go into effect, California voters would need to approve the measure on a ballot, and they would probably also need to approve controversial prison reforms that would free up money to spend on higher education. Mr. Schwarzenegger is an unpopular governor in the last year of his term, making it difficult for him to rally support for new programs.

But college leaders praised the idea on Wednesday and said they were pleased that the governor was focusing attention on the issue. Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, said in a written statement that the amendment was "a bold and visionary plan that represents a fundamental restoration of the values and priorities that have made California great."

Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California, which lobbies for community colleges, said he was surprised and delighted to hear Mr. Schwarzenegger bemoan the cuts in spending on higher education. But he said the California budget was already hobbled by restrictive spending requirements.

"The attention to the depletion of funding for higher education from the state being addressed is welcome," Mr. Lay said. "I'm not sure another formula is the best way to tackle the problem."


1. cwinton - January 06, 2010 at 07:49 pm

I've heard for many years now that the combined percentage of a state's budget for higher education and prisons is typically constant. Increased spending for prisons has thus negatively affected spending for higher education with predictable results. The governor's proposal is too little and too late, I'm afraid, akin to locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.

2. jack_433 - January 07, 2010 at 10:54 am

While a good idea, this will not solve the problem that plagues the California State University System. The CSU is awash in structural mediocrity driven primarily by a union that is committed to its own pockets and not education, but also facilitated by a Chancellor who knows next to nothing about systems thinking. The CSU is not only financially bankrupt, it is morally and intellectualy bankrupt.

The CSU is broken, folks. To fix it requires a structural change starting with reigning in the union and holding executives fully accountable for their actions and for the system.

3. 11272784 - January 07, 2010 at 10:54 am

While I applaud the sentiment, I have learned that laws stating that "X must get more (or less) funding than Y" ALWAYS create budget problems in the long run - and usually in the short run. The variability of economic and social conditions makes such absolute prescriptions unwise. The solution is to have the state's priorities right and not have a bunch of mandatory sentencing laws that fill prisons with people who don't belong there.

4. johntoradze - January 07, 2010 at 11:47 am

I suspect that what the governor is proposing here is a camel's nose under the tent. I doubt very much if the governor is unaware that there are large numbers in prison in California that should not be there, but it is political suicide to say so.

I think what is going on here is that the governor is trying to set up a system which will force the legislature into dealing with the prisons and mandatory minimum sentencing by first depriving them of the virtually unlimited budget they have had.

Given the circumstances this is a good thing. The governor sees that the primary driver for the prison-industrial complex is the money available. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199812/prisons Few people realize that there are far more people in California's prisons (approximately half of them for nonviolent drug offenses) than there are in the entire federal prison system.

Since the only practical way in California to contain the prison system's unquenchable appetite for money is to mandate that more important things get more money from the state, a move of this kind is necessary and good.

5. intered - January 07, 2010 at 11:58 am

As well intended as this sentiment may be, it would guarantee yet another long run of inefficiency and unaccountability that characterizes most state institutions of higher education.

Volumes can be written on the waste in state higher education. I'll mention only a few of the changes that would increase efficiency while improving quality (including transforming the idea of quality from vague, unprovable notions to objective measures):

(a) 15-25% could be saved in the first 24 months by installing a 21st Century cost accounting system and using the unit level reports to adjust program offerings, reduce waste, increase needed and productive programs, etc.,
(b) another potentially large savings would accrue to using the information from the new accounting system, combined with objective market research, to reduce or eliminate programs whose real markets are the professors rather than the students; state schools are jammed full of four-year and graduate degrees that educate a few students that professors have lured into the program and for which there are no real jobs,
(c) eliminate financial aid when the standard time-to-degree is exceeded by one term; there are multiple contributors to this problem but the largest variance is attributable is the inefficient system that does little to ensure that classes are available when needed; state institutions my teach supply chain management but they do not understand, even at an elementary level, (d) launch the 3-year degree wherever possible (http://www.intered.com/higheredbriefing/2010/1/5/the-three-year-degree-part-ii.html); properly done, quality will be improved and net costs to stakeholders will be reduced 15-27%.

Much more can be done, including putting real measures of processes, outcomes, and impact in place and including these data in the decision and CQI processes (I am unaware of a state university that has anything more than a public relations level CQI process).

Don't do this Governor. You will create yet another pool of waste, inefficiency, and occasional fraud.

Robert W Tucker
InterEd, Inc.

6. jack_433 - January 07, 2010 at 02:51 pm

What does an executive in a business get when he loses $29 million from gender harrassment lawsuits? He gets the boot.

What does an executive in the CSU get? He gets a raise.

7. _perplexed_ - January 07, 2010 at 04:45 pm

Given the high recidivism rate for those released from CA prisons; and given the effect of years of education on the likelihood of committing a crime, and given the relative costs of maintaining a prisoner vs. educating a student, it appears as if one could reduce both crime and costs by admitting criminals to CA colleges rather than incarcerating them in CA prisons!

8. navydad - January 07, 2010 at 05:39 pm

Obvious solution: legalize, regulate, and tax most recreational drugs and release all prison inmates serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

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