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Vote 08: Community college funding

Eyewitness News coverage of Vote 08
January 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The California primary is less than a month away. One thing voters will find on the ballot: Proposition 92. Prop. 92 is the community college funding initiative. The proposition would roll back student fees and guarantee money for community colleges. You'd think that'd be an easy sell to educators, but not so. Two teachers unions are squaring off against each other over this proposition.

College is a place of higher education, an institution of learning. But lesson number one is that college is expensive. That's a big reason why 2.5 million students are going to community colleges in California. In fact, two-thirds of California State University students, and one-third of University of California students start out at a community college.

The California Federation of Teachers wants to pass Proposition 92, cutting student fees at community colleges by 25 percent, and they also want to tweak the way the schools are funded.

You see, the funding for community colleges in California is based on attendance in kindergarten through high school. Prop. 92 proponents say a big surge in the number of students has worked its way through the schools over the years, and is now sitting in the state's community colleges. But because K-through-12 enrollment is down, community college funding is down at a time when attendance is up.

"A few years ago when fees were increased, the enrollment drop in California community colleges was around 300,000 students," said Carl Friedlander, California Federation of Teachers.

Prop. 92, he says, would make up the difference.

So why is the state's biggest teachers union against it? The California Teachers Association says Prop. 92 will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, money it fears will have to be taken away from four-year universities.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult for the CSU to get the funding they need, to provide access to a quality education. Prop. 92 is going to make that even more difficult," said Elizabeth Hoffman, California Faculty Assoc.

With California facing a predicted $14 billion shortfall this year, voters will have to decide for themselves just how badly community colleges need the help.

Who knows? Maybe some of these students will go on to become politicians or accountants, and figure out how to keep the state in the black.