Lights out for college budget

Tara Carter

The collapse of California’s Silicon Valley and an ongoing energy crisis are just two of the factors that have led the state of California into its first economic slowdown in years.

In an effort to restore California’s failing economy and balance its budget, Governor Gray Davis has cut $158 million from the budget of California’s higher education system.

Although funding was cut from both universities and community colleges, California’s 106 community colleges are the most affected by the governor’s budget cut.

In the 2001-2002 school year the community college system will lose $126 million of the $158 million designated for higher education learning facilities, while the University of California and the California State University systems will lose only $32 million.

The cuts will be particularly hard on the community college system because it is in a routine category of funding that has been approved by the governor for almost 15 consecutive years.

“It came so unexpectedly,” said Dr Jane Harmon, President of Cerritos College.

“It cuts our budget drastically in comparison to the other higher education budgets.

“One-fourth of all the cuts the governor made were to the community colleges, that seems so unfair to everyone.

Community Colleges will soon feel the effect of the governor’s decision.

“It will have an impact, we will have to deal with less.” said Donald Hallinger, Earth Science instructor at Cerritos College.

Some of the schools most affected by the budget cut include Long Beach City College, who will lose $2.5 million, Pierce College, who will lose $850,000 in funds designated to fix water lines, sprinkler systems and maintenance, Valley College, who will have to go without $550,000 and a health building, and many Los Angeles community colleges, whose system will lose $10 million and will have to halt plans to restore their dilapidated campuses.

For Cerritos College the cutbacks mean a loss of $1.6 million that school officials had earmarked for instructional materials, maintenance, field trip buses, replacing outdated air conditioning systems, fixing roofs, and updating computers.

Along with every other community college in California, Cerritos will also have to make drastic cutbacks in its existing budgets to these unfilled needs.

Although Davis has already made the cuts to the budget, community college officials, outraged citizens and politicians aren’t taking his decision lying down.

Republican assemblyman Bob Pacheco, who calls community colleges “the workhorses of education,” has announced a bill that if accepted would return $98 million to the community college system.

Democratic Senator Jack Scott has also promised to propose a similar bill.

Roger Salazar, spokesperson for the governor, said “the governor will review the legislation carefully, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve got to balance the budget.”

Davis refused to speak directly to the media about his cutback.

But in a prepared statement, he said, “I am open to reconsidering funding for these worthwhile programs in the future when the economy improves.”