California Faculty Association members pushed hard in favor of Prop 55 during a student press conference held on Thursday.
CFA President Jennifer Eagan and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon led the conference and explained how the loss of the tax revenue would impact the state’s largest public university system. Prop 55, known as the California Children’s Education and Healthcare Protection Act, asks voters to continue an income tax that has been generating revenue for K-12 and community colleges throughout the state since it first passed in 2012.
“I know a lot of folks may not see the direct connection between Prop 55 and the Cal State budget,” Rendon said, “but make no mistake, there is a connection.”
The CSU system would not directly receive any of the $4 to $9 billion raised with previous increased taxes, which is specifically allocated to public K-12 schools and community colleges. But as Eagan pointed out, Prop 55 will free up money in the general fund for the CSU and many other vital services.
“Without it, the CSU could lose $250 million per year from its base budget,” Eagan said.
Last year, the CSU budget received 17.7 percent less from the state than it did in 2007-2008 –– adjusted for inflation –– with 13.5 percent more students to serve, according to the Eagan.
“The state’s disinvestment … over the past decade has taken a terrible toll on our system and the CSU has not fully recovered,” Eagan said, referring to massive cuts during the 2008-2009 academic year that resulted in course eliminations and other austerity measures that hurt students.
The CSU system serves nearly half a million students, where 50 percent of the student population are considered low-income.
“Let’s face it, the CSU cannot afford to lose that funding,” Eagan said.
Without the passage of Prop 55, the ripple effect will require that all public schools in California slash budgets immediately.
Despite the potentially severe consequences, several large news outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times, have published editorials opposing the measure.
“Their argument is that ultimately the legislature needs to find a longer-term solution to…stop the boom and bust cycle that happens in our state budget and how that impacts education,” Eagan said, “and that point, in many respects, is well taken.”
Eagan believes longer-term solutions are ideal, but in the absence of one right now, she claims that California schools will have to prepare for the cliff they will fall inevitably off next year.
Rendon is urging voters to pass Prop 55 because of the funding needs he has personally seen as a student, professor and legislator that is sometimes forced to make difficult decisions.
“It will help secure critical funding for younger students and by extension, it will help funding for public higher education,” Rendon said.
Eagan fears that a loss of funding would feel a lot like 2008-2009. “Having been through it the first time,” Eagan said, “I’m not looking forward to it.” “Our students and the future of the CSU deserve better.”