We the undersigned citizens of the State of California ask the Governor and the California State Legislature to abandon all attempts at balancing the California state budget with budget reductions to the California Community Colleges and/or increases in student fees.
We acknowledge that you have the difficult task of commanding our state government through a period of economic turmoil. However, we believe that it was the failed policy of disinvesting in the state's public education institutions that has left us with an economy that is stagnant and a workforce unable to adapt to changes in the global market.
The California Community Colleges are the largest provider of workforce training in California, offering more than 175 degree and certificate programs in hundreds of vocational fields such as nursing, business, and computer science.
With the statewide unemployment rate at 8.2 percent and rising, displaced workers need access to such courses to expedite their return to the workforce.
Community College short-term vocational programs prepare students for new careers in good paying jobs in a matter of months. Below are a few examples of occupational training programs offered by the colleges that require only one or two semesters (4-8 months) to complete.
Welding, Drafting, Biotechnology, Animal Science, Plumbing, Surveying, Horticulture, Emergency Medical Services, Police & Fire Certificates and Nurse Assistant.
In 2007-08, the California Community Colleges recieved $97.5 million to support 2 percent enrollment growth. However, strong enrollment demand resulted in the colleges serving nearly 16,000 more full-time equivalent students(FTES) beyond this funded level.
The 2008-09 Budget Act provides $113 million to support 2 percent enrollment growth. However, in fall 2008, the colleges faced a 10.2 percent surge in enrollments fueled by the state's high unemployment rate. As a result, the colleges are currently serving over 100,000 students for which they are not recieving funding. Colleges are serving these students through temporary measures such as increasing class-sizes beyond normal limits.
The proposed $332.2 million reduction would leave the colleges without the funding to serve more than 64,000 FTES, in addition to the 100,000 FTES that are currently unfunded.
If the proposed cuts are adopted, the colleges would be left without the resources nescessary to serve over 164,000 FTES. Because community college students typically attend on a part-time basis, this translates into more than 250,000 students being turned away from college education.
On top of this mess we have weak property tax receipts automatically cutting funding for community colleges. In 2007-08, community college property tax receipts were down by over $97 million from the Budget Act levels. This property tax shortfall translates into a cut to colleges' general purpose revenues, significantly reducing resources available to support educational services. LAO projects the property taxes for K-14 will be $460 million below Budget Act estimates for 2008-09. The community colleges share of this shortfall will likely be $55 to $60 million. While K-12 schools are automatically backfilled in the event of a property tax shortfall, community colleges are not, and colleges would end up with an additional 1% cut to their budgets.
Furthermore, we believe that any increase in student fees will act as a financial barrier and significantly impede the ability of hundreds of thousands of Californians from attaining their educational goals and will strip them of their ability to find high-wage employment.
Thank you for taking the time to read our letter and we look forward to seeing progress under your leadership.