Gov. Brown answers questions about Prop. 30, public education

Gov. Jerry Brown spoke to University of California (UC) student newspapers before a rally at UCLA on Oct. 16, in support of Prop. 30, the measure that would prevent further cuts to public education.

He answered questions about the proposition and why he believes it is the solution to maintaining the public education system, as well as the only solution to prevent further budget cuts to the UCs.

Gov. Brown explained the inception of Prop. 30 and what would happen if it doesn’t pass. He also shared his thoughts on the best way to help the economy move forward.

The Aggie participated in a teleconference with Gov. Brown and the student newspapers of UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.

California Aggie: If Prop. 30 fails to pass, will any one area be more affected: K-12 education, community colleges, CSUs or UCs?
Brown: The way the budget was enacted, the UCs will lose $250 million if the No vote prevails on Prop. 30. The Cal State universities will also lose $250 million and the community colleges will lose about half a billion, and the K-12 will lose about $4.5 billion. As a matter of fact, the UCs may even lose more money because there’s a certain tuition buyout that might be lost, so there’s big stakes in the Proposition 30 election.

California Aggie: A competing tax initiative, Prop. 38, will also be on the ballot. What are your thoughts on Prop. 38 and do you believe it will affect the outcome of the passing of Prop. 30?
Brown: Actually, I don’t; Prop. 38 is a separate measure that aims to achieve slightly different results. I prefer Prop. 30 because it has been drafted with a view to the budget architecture and how new taxes can work together with the rest of general fund spending. It also, and perhaps most importantly, prevents the cuts this year. The trigger cuts only go into effect if Prop. 30 gets a No. So the most important thing, regardless of what people do on any other measure, is to vote Yes on 30. That stops the cuts and it provides revenue going forward.

New University, UC Irvine: How important is a relationship between the state and higher education in California, and how could this potentially change if Prop. 30 failed?
Brown: The state has already said they are going to raise tuition $2,400 beginning in the new year and the reason is the state has been reducing state support for years; that’s why tuition has doubled.

Brown stated that services such as prisons, health and human services have been steadily growing and need sufficient funding as well. Additionally, these services are partially federally funded and in order to receive this funding, the state has to provide their share of the funds.

Brown: These all are important but these are expenditures that didn’t exist on the level they do now, back when tuition was virtually nonexistent. We’ve made major cuts; it just so happens that education is such a huge part of the budget and it is less protected by federal law, and so when you have a shortfall, people look to the UC and Cal State, K-12 and the community colleges because that’s totally within the control of state authority.

The Daily Nexus, UC Santa Barbara: If Prop. 30 fails in November, will you insist that the trigger cuts in the 2012-13 budget go into effect — veto any other legislative alternative — and insist on a cuts-only solution to the budget deficit, or will you continue to pursue a tax increase?
Brown: I’d like to think there was an alternative in case Proposition 30 fails, but there isn’t. The state only has so much money. We have the worst credit rating of all 50 states. When I became governor, the deficit was $26 billion. We have cut away at that and we’re getting close to balanced, which I believe will happen if Prop. 30 passes. If Prop. 30 doesn’t pass, I can’t conjure money out of thin air, and the gimmicks of the past are not acceptable for going forward. So yes, the trigger cuts will go into effect and it’s automatic, so there’s nothing the legislature can do because the trigger cuts are already enacted, [but] subject to not go into effect if Prop. 30 passes.

UC: Let’s say Prop. 30 passes. What needs to happen in the future to create a more sustainable higher education system?
Brown: Number one, I believe that the coordination between community colleges, high school advanced placements and UCs has to be intensified. Number two, I believe online learning has to be looked to wherever it can be usefully and creatively used. Thirdly, I think the UC leadership have got to find ways of reducing expenditures that are less valuable than the core mission of the university, which is to educate students.

The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley: As public funding declines, schools are depending more on private and research funding. How does that align with your vision of the state’s role in education in the future? And should schools be looking more into these sources of funding?
Brown: I know the university has taken the path of more and more funding because of the decline in state support; also because of the increasing needs that the university finds for itself. It’s even become a practice that when you interview a possible dean or chancellor, the first question is how much money can you raise? Now that really has little to do with the intellectual depth or leadership or creativity virtues that I would identify with university leadership. But there is this need for fundraising. All of that needs to be very carefully looked at because it can alter the character of the university negatively.

Gov. Brown recognized that money is needed and said if the economy grows, that would provide a tremendous amount of revenue for the state. California would then be in a better position to fund education.

“Our public colleges and universities are a pathway to the California Dream, and ensure that we have the creative talent to succeed in an increasingly complex world. Join me in saying yes to Prop. 30 so we can stop the cuts, stop the tuition hikes and invest in a strong economy for the next generation,” Gov. Brown later said at the rally.

PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at city@theaggie.org.