SMC's Equalization Pay Deemed Unlikely
Many Santa Monica College students and staff members still have the memory of the chaotic budget crisis that took over our campus during the 2003-2004 year: fee increases, department closures, canceled classes, laid off teachers and students forced to renounce or put their education on stand by.
A year after the budget crisis and despite a drastic increase of the tuition fees by the Californian Governor and State legislature, SMC has entered into a positive recovery mode, but even though progresses have been made, the future still remains uncertain.
Different factors caused SMC to enter a recovery mode. Among them and the most significant was the $3.6 million in equalization funds allocated to the school by Gov. Schwarzenegger last year, as a part of an $80 million statewide installment to help equalize the funding each community college district receives. This had never been done before "It is the 1st time the government set aside money for equalization in the state of California," said Dr. Thomas Donner, the Interim Superintendent President.
But the equalization funds which were supposed to be allocated during a period of 3 years were not included in Gov. Schwarzenegger's last January budget proposal for the 2005-2006 year. "If it was not for the Governor to put in equalization money, SMC will not have been recovering, it made a tremendous difference," said Donner who believes that SMC is unlikely to receive the 2nd equalization payment given the current economical conditions of the state.
According to Donner, the Californian formula of education funding is very complex. Not every college is funded the same amount per students throughout the state. As a matter of fact, SMC is the lowest funded college, partly because of a property tax-cutting initiative passed in 1978 called Proposition 13. According to the Howard Jarvis Tax Payers Association, prior to Proposition 13, tax rates could not exceed 3 percent of the market value, now they are limited to 1 percent.
In addition, Donner underlined the unusual controversy of a wealthy district such as SMC that includes the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, but still is the lowest funded college in California "There is a difference between the district of attendance and the district of residence," said Donner. Even though the attendance number of SMC students is high, many come from other districts for which the school does not get as much money as if they were part of SMC's own district.
Furthermore, in a recent article published in The Santa Monica Daily Press dated April 11th, 2005 and titled "Governor Schwarzenegger to speak at SMC graduation" it is mentioned that out of all Californian colleges, SMC received the largest amount of equalization funds.
But equalization was not the sole reason SMC is slowly recovering, the general effort of the School officials to maximize recovery has also been a significant contribution.
SMC's aggressive and obstinate efforts to recruit students and even recontact those who dropped out of school during the budget crisis have been favorable. Additional sections of the most popular classes were created and administration processes such as applying, enrolling, counseling and financial aid were made easier and more reachable to students through the last June opening of a one-stop Welcome Center in the Student Cafeteria Complex.
Although SMC seems ready and in good track to operate at its best level again, without the second equalization allocation, SMC's recovery is at stake and remains far from being complete.