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Reclaim Higher Ed Coalition Letter to Jerry Brown on Budget

January 25th, 2018
Governor Jerry Brown
California State Capitol Building, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA

Dear Governor Brown,

The purpose of this message is to communicate the priorities and expectations of the Reclaim CA Higher Education coalition for the California State budget. We are stakeholders committed to the reaffirmation of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education. We are the over 2 million students, staff, faculty, and community groups of California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California.

Our mission is to fully restore the Master Plan for Higher Education as it was enacted in 1960 – affordable as defined as tuition and fee free, accessible, and quality. However, as we are not currently in a budget year where the Master Plan has been restored, we are engaging in this year’s budget advocacy to attempt to capture the spirit of the Master Plan, since education is a fundamental human right and that fundamental human right does not stop at 12th grade.

First, we wish to discuss immigration and protection of our students, which is an issue that affects all 3 systems. We must protect students from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan and other possible Temporary Protected Status countries from having their American Dream ripped away from them. To that end, we fully support the $10 million proposed to assist the TPS Americans, and ask that it be increased, as sadly, the number of countries who are likely to be impacted is projected to increase. Additionally, we support you and the entire state legislature, along with the system heads, in standing up for DACA recipients. As you know, the judge’s ruling is likely to be only a brief break in the attacks against these Dream Act Americans, whose lives are being unfairly used as a political volleyball.

University of California

Although we appreciate the additional $92.1 million allocated to UC, we are disappointed in your decision to lower this year’s University of California funding from an expected 4% to 3%. As you know, UC has been struggling to overcome the long-term impact of earlier systemic funding cuts. A 6% increase for ongoing base operations would be more fiscally appropriate in light of the increased enrollments that UC has undertaken as part of your previous commitments (5,000 additional students) and the UCOP’s recent commitment to add an additional 2,000 California undergraduates. Your decision not to follow through with the originally agreed upon increase in funding undermines the service that the UC is trying to provide for the State of California. In order to support these undergraduates, it is also critical to admit 500 more graduate students who are central to the university’s research and teaching mission and to meet the state’s workforce needs. Moreover, your budget characterizations do not adequately account for the shift in costs from the state to students. Despite the UC administration’s unfortunate missteps, the UC has held up its side of the bargain in maintaining a world class research and teaching system, but the current budget plan you propose jeopardizes this commitment.

At present, the UCRS pension system is being eroded by a wrong-headed approach to addressing funding concerns, namely allowing a 401 K opt out from the defined benefit pension which will ultimately leave it actuarially unsound. As UC is the largest employer in California, it would stand to reason that the California state economy may be interested in making sure that its retirees are able to retire with dignity. We urge the state to fund the state portion of UCRS so that attacks on the pension will be walked back and the three Unions who are in bargaining over this issue: AFSCME Local 3299, CNA and UPTE-CWA Local 9119, can rest assured.

We thank you for signing SB 201, the Research Assistants right to organize act. We further request that you use meetings with UC representatives as an opportunity to insist upon true card check neutrality for these workers, with no anti-Union pressure campaigns. A chilling effect is already occurring due to some emails that were sent in the fall.

We continue to staunchly oppose the 2.5% tuition and 5% fee increase the UC Regents are scheduled to levy against students to make up for the job the state is refusing to do. The “high fee, high aid” model has failed, as evidenced by the student debt crisis. We demand student debt relief and a repudiation of the “high fee, high aid” model in favor of actual public investment in our public higher educational institutions.

The California State University

We are saddened and dismayed that, as reported January 9th, 2018 in the San Francisco Chronicle article titled California State University Maxes Out, Turns Away More Students than Ever, 31,000 eligible Master Plan students were turned away from the CSU this academic year. The CSU needs an increase of $423 million for base operations, but with added accountability.

We urge you to investigate the CSU's accounts outside of the State Treasury that now total $3.44 billion. Those monies could be used to contact the 31,000 students turned away and get them admitted, as well as provide step increases for the only public employees in the state of California who do not receive steps: CSU staff titles.

Once again, CSU is scheduled to vote on yet another 4% tuition increase this year, which would generate $69.8 million. We are, staunchly opposed to this attempted CSU tuition and fee increase levied against students to make up for the job the state is refusing to do. The “high fee, high aid” model has failed, as evidenced by the student debt crisis. We demand student debt relief and a repudiation of the “high fee, high aid” model in favor of actual public investment in our public higher educational institutions.

The California Community Colleges

As defenders of high quality, open and accessible higher education in California, we regretfully oppose several key parts of the January budget proposal.

While we applaud the substantial 2.51% COLA, we have serious concerns about tying any new funding formula to a single measurement of student success. If implemented, this could foreclose opportunity for our most vulnerable students—those deemed unlikely to complete within a relatively short timeframe—and completely alter both the model and purpose of California’s community colleges. Our coalition is extremely proud of the transformative nature of community colleges and recognizes that all our students benefit from the experience, even those who do not complete a degree or certificate. Creating financial incentives to shut them out of publicly funded higher education will have negative consequences on communities, families, jobs, and society.

We also oppose the $120 million expenditure on a subscription-based online initiative akin to the model abandoned in 2013 by San Jose State University (https://www.futureofhighered.org/working-papers). Community colleges already offer an array of online courses targeted to working adults that is both academically sound and integrated into our normal course schedules.

Further, we express deep reservations against a wholesale de-categorization of statewide programs, particularly our outstanding support services like Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) and Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS). Both have longstanding track records of accountability and success, and should not be block granted in the name of flexibility. Programmatic review of these categoricals should be discussed in the policy, not budgetary, process.

As we begin to plan for the May Revise, we want to affirm our support for the priorities transmitted in our system’s Budget Change Proposal, particularly those that impact full-time and part-time faculty. An overwhelming and incontrovertible body of evidence demonstrates that students succeed when they work with full-service faculty, whether tenured full-timers or fully supported part-timers. For years, students have confirmed this with their personal stories in testimony at the Capital. We have a genuine opportunity with this budget to move forward on such longstanding priorities as 75/25 and part-time faculty parity, and these are the investments that will most reliably contribute to student success.

Finally, as our coalition is based on students and workers uniting for justice,

we respectfully request that SB 258 (Atkins) be fully implemented by all systems

not to engage in anti-Union attacks.

As always, we urge you to look within the incarceration budget to find the public dollars to fund our requests, as well as http://www.reclaimcahighered.org/48dollars and http://48fix.org/policy-paper/ for more suggestions. Thank you in advance for you time and attention, and we look forward to meeting with your staff in the coming weeks regarding these matters.

Sincerely,

Mia McIver, President – University Council – American Federation of Teachers

Stanton Glantz, President – Council of UC Faculty Associations

Jeff Michels, President – California Community College Independents

John Martin, Chair – California Part-Time Faculty Association

Neil Jacklin, Acting President – California State University Employees Union

Jonathan Lightman, Executive Director – Faculty Association for California Community Colleges

Kathryn Lybarger, President – AFSCME Local 3299 and California Labor Federation

Jamie McDole, President – University Professional and Technical Employees, CWA Local 9119

Rose Ann De Moro, President - California Nurses Association

Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director - Courage Campaign

Courtney Cooper, President – Student Senate for California Community Colleges

Jason Rabinowitz, Executive Director – Teamsters Local 2010

Anke Schennick, President – UAW 5810 (UC Post-doctoral researchers)

Sandip Roy, President - UAW Local 4123 (Graduate students at CSU)

Emily Yen, President – UC Student-Workers Union, UAW Local 2865

Stuart A. Bussey, M.D., J.D., President - Union of American Physicians and Dentists