Budget revise brings big hope for education


California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, in Sacramento, California. Facing resistance at the Capitol to his proposal to overhaul California's school financing formula and to shift more money to poor and English-learning students Brown said "today he considers the matter one of civil rights and will give opponents "the battle of their lives." (Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, in Sacramento, California. Facing resistance at the Capitol to his proposal to overhaul California’s school financing formula and to shift more money to poor and English-learning students Brown said “today he considers the matter one of civil rights and will give opponents “the battle of their lives.” (Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

After a half-decade pattern of decreased funding, program reductions and class cuts, California community colleges finally have something to celebrate.

Gov. Jerry Brown released his latest draft of the California state budget May 14. Projections for statewide expenditures either stayed true to or decreased from estimates in his first draft released in January, with the exception of funding for education.

Under his May Revision, K-14 schools will receive $57.8 billion of the $96.7 billion budget. Brown’s plan indicates a $1.3 billion decrease in total spending from his January version, but education funding levels are projected to be $1.6 billion higher than they were at the beginning of the year.

Community colleges get an estimated $227 million in apportionment funding, money the state pays community college districts per full-time equivalency student. The figure is a 30.7 percent increase from 2012, or an additional $1,502 per student.

This is the first time since 2000 the state has projected a budget surplus. One of the driving forces behind the new flow of state revenue is Proposition 30, the 2012 voter-approved tax measure that raised sales taxes and added an extra tax on those making more than $250,000 annually.

Statewide, community colleges are adding classes to help restore the loss of more than 500,000 students since 2008, according to a statement from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

In a CCCCO survey of 70 community colleges, 67 percent said they would be offering more classes in their 2013 summer schedules compared to 2012, with another 23 percent reporting they would not be decreasing their course offerings.

The class section bump will be facilitated by a section of the budget that’s not there. In the revision, Brown nixed a controversial January proposal that would have required students with more than 90 credit units to pay the full cost of instruction—close to $200 a unit, as opposed to $46.

Yet the well-timed windfall is not going to instantly fix the damage the budget cuts have wrought over five years.

“We’re not out of the woods by a long shot,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris.

Citrus is also taking the conservative approach by focusing on restoring enrollment rather than programs and services.

For example, vice president of finance Carol Horton said that reopening the campus Child Development Center is not a priority at the moment.

“That’s not going to happen. Not right now,” Horton said. “Looking at the total FTES we’ve lost over the past years, it’s close to 1,300. Right now what we’re doing is trying to put back the class sections.”

Horton is projecting that the Citrus College general fund will increase $1.9 million (and possibly more), bringing the 2013-14 totals to an estimated $56 million. Additionally, an estimated 180 to 220 classes will be added to the fall 2013 schedule, Horton said.

“We’ve cut a lot out of the budget over the last five years,” Horton said. I don’t think we’re going to rush to put a lot of programs in . . . Don’t assume the dollars are [always] going to be there. We still need to be mindful and conservative.”

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