Report Misses Its Mark in Opposing the Amendment

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California's Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) got the diagnosis right, but missed the mark on remedies for correcting the imbalance between state funding of higher education and prisons.

In a policy brief released Jan. 26, the LAO concluded that a constitutional amendment proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to change the state's funding priorities in favor of public universities would be unwise and unnecessary.

The governor had offered the constitutional amendment as a way to ensure that the state dedicate no less than 10 percent of the state General Fund to public universities and no more than 7 percent to the corrections system.

The LAO policy brief acknowledged that state support for the University of California and California State University systems is roughly half of what it was 25 years ago, and funding of prisons has more than doubled during the same period.

The report accurately diagnoses the problem-a long-term shift in priorities away from higher education, yet concluded that no remedies beyond business as usual are needed.

It was especially disturbing to learn that the Legislative Analyst believes state disinvestment in higher education is not a problem because, after all, the universities can raise fees to compensate for the loss.

This point of view demonstrates a dim understanding of the Master Plan for Higher Education and what it has meant to the state. It provides hard and clear evidence of what has been the Sacramento approach to higher education over the past two decades: stick students and their parents with what essentially is a user's tax in order to compensate for a declining commitment to higher education.

The UC and the CSU systems are state treasures, and Californians who care about the future should not be satisfied with a business-as-usual approach.

The road to economic recovery and a brighter future for California runs straight through its great public universities, and Californians can't stand by and let them wither for lack of adequate support from the state they serve.

The most important element of the governor's proposal was his challenge to California to rethink its budget and state investment priorities. Our plan is to work with the governor and the Legislature-and with students, parents, faculty, alumni and other members of the UC community-to develop a viable proposal to restore higher education's place as a top priority for the state.


Patrick Lenz is vice president for budget and capital resources for the University of California. Reply to [email protected]

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