POLITICS and POLICY: Calif. Colleges Drop Doomsday Plans after Voters OK Prop 30
LOS ANGELES (AP) — California State University will start cutting checks to students to refund a tuition increase now that voters have approved new tax measures to fund public education.
At CSU and other public schools, colleges and universities across the state, educators are rolling up contingency plans they had prepared in the event Proposition 30, which called for tax hikes to stave off $6 billion in education cuts, failed.
Gov. Jerry’s Brown’s measure, which will raise income taxes on wealthy residents for the next seven years and hike the sales tax by a quarter-cent over the next four years, passed Tuesday 54 percent to 46 percent. The tax boosts will raise an estimated $8.5 billion for education.
“Educators are overjoyed,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers.
Cal State and the University of California were slated to lose $250 million each this year. The state’s 112 community colleges stood to lose a total of $338 million. K-12 schools were looking at more than $5 billion in cuts.
Education officials at all levels now say they can now stop looking at worst-case scenarios and concentrate on rebuilding some of the programs that have been cut over the past five years.
Community college system Chancellor Brice Harris said the measure would give the system an additional $210 million between now and July. Some of the money will go toward adding class space for about 20,000 additional students, he said.
John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in the state, said in a statement, “These funds from Proposition 30 will better equip us to provide a quality education to all Los Angeles Unified School District youth over the next several years and begin the road back to fiscal recovery.
Like many K-12 districts across the state, Los Angeles Unified had considered ending the school year weeks early, possibly in April, if Proposition 30 went down. Instead, administrators will now look at restoring programs and staff positions that were previously cut, Deasy said.
Even the state Legislature had given districts wiggle room in case the proposition failed. Lawmakers chopped 20 days off the state-mandated minimum of 180 school days for this academic year and next.
Cal State, which serves about 425,000 students at 23 campuses, was already implementing its worst-case scenario. It had boosted tuition by $249 starting with this fall semester and announced that it was withholding applications for fall 2013 because it might have had to shrink enrollment if the measure failed.
The university said it is now going to issue refunds, give tuition credits and reconfigure financial aid packages as it readjusts tuition to last year’s $5,472 rate. It will also start processing applications for next fall.
At University of California, officials had discussed raising tuition by as much as 20 percent, or roughly $2,400, in January to make up the shortfall, as well as cutting academic programs, increasing class sizes and laying off staff.
Board of Regents Chairman Sherry Lansing credited student and faculty efforts to mobilize voters in an issue that had teachers, students and administrators all on the same side.
“This victory will certainly help us in our battle to restore fiscal stability to the University of California,” she said.