Soapbox

CSU gets stiffed in Gov. Brown’s budget, again

Sarah Strand, a part-time lecturer, teaches a statistics course at Sacramento State in 2014. Legislators have urged the CSU system to increase tenure-track faculty, but that will take more money.
Sarah Strand, a part-time lecturer, teaches a statistics course at Sacramento State in 2014. Legislators have urged the CSU system to increase tenure-track faculty, but that will take more money. Sacramento Bee file

Another year and another disappointing state budget allocation for the California State University.

But it is also another chance for Gov. Jerry Brown to do the right thing and reinvest in the “People’s University” – the California State University. It’s the system that serves nearly 500,000 California students and produces our state’s teachers, nurses, researchers, innovators and political leaders.

It’s the one that seems to continually get overlooked.

In his revised May budget, Brown allocated an additional $38 million in general fund revenue to the $119.5 million augmentation he proposed in January. That additional funding, however, falls about $100 million short of what is needed, according to CSU administrators, the California Faculty Association and some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León.

Last week, both houses of the Legislature included the much-needed additional funding in their education subcommittee budgets. But it remains to be seen whether the funding will survive the conference committee process and the governor’s blue pencil.

Meanwhile, the University of California received an additional $96 million for 2015-16, on top of the $119.5 million bump, and $170 million in each of the next two years. That’s $436 million in additional revenue that has helped in-state UC students avoid a threatened tuition hike.

The CSU system, meanwhile, has been told to live within its means and serve twice as many students as the UC. That’s unfair.

We agree wholeheartedly with de León, who said: “CSU, the workhorse of our higher education system, has been shortchanged. We have to support both of our public institutions of higher learning to make sure college is accessible to as many Californians as possible.”

We also appreciate Atkins, who said that “the Assembly will work to provide a higher level of funding for CSU, which has taken a more responsible approach to student fees, particularly funding that can help accelerate CSU’s graduation rate.”

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state will take in $3.1 billion more than the $113.3 billion that the Brown administration estimated in its revised budget proposal, primarily thanks to capital gains revenue.

So explain to us again why the CSU and its students are being shortchanged?

We aren’t asking for additional funding to bail the CSU out of its bills, and we aren’t going to throw temper tantrums to get our way.

But we are asking for additional funding to ensure that all qualified California students who want it can get the quality higher education offered by the CSU. Our students deserve the same investment as UC students.

And they also deserve to know there will be faculty there to support them. That is why we’re advocating for the Legislature to hold fast to the commitment it made in 2001, when lawmakers passed a resolution urging the CSU to raise its tenure and tenure-track faculty to at least 75 percent.

The faculty and staff have kept our great CSU system running with bubble gum and bailing wire for years. Now that the state has more tax revenue, it needs to do for the CSU what it is doing for the UC – invest. The students of California, and the future of California itself, depend on it.

Lillian Taiz, a history professor at California State University, Los Angeles, is president of the California Faculty Association.

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