Regarding the invitation of Gov. Schwarzenegger

Let's Terminate the Terminator

On Tuesday, June 14, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will deliver the commencement speech at Santa Monica College. I must say that I have a hard time justifying the invitation of this so-called "pro-education" Governor.

To begin with, the decision to invite Gov. Schwarzenegger was made unilaterally by former College President Dr. Piedad F. Robertson. Although this is the customary procedure, I find it odd not to consult either students at SMC or members of the Academic Senate. Graduating students in particular would seem an indispensable group to consult before making such a major decision. After all, these students and not Robertson are Schwarzenegger's target audience. According to an article in the Corsair, many of Robertson's colleagues perceived her to be imperious, too strictly authoritarian and not committed to shared governance. In fact, both the Academic and Classified Senates voted no confidence in Robertson in 2003.

Furthermore, California is currently ranked, depending on which survey you read, at 43rd or 45th nationwide for education performance and we are spending almost $600 less per year per student than the national average, according to the latest Rand Study. This has resulted in consequences such as raised tuition fees, shut-downs of schools, increases in class size and lack of basic supplies and instructional material, to name a few.

Now, I wouldn't blame all of this on Schwarzenegger - financial support per student for education in California has been declining during the past thirty years - but you would think that he would at least try to do something about it, being "pro-education" and all.

To Schwarzenegger's defense, College President Thomas Donner pointed out that, last year the Governor put $80 million into the budget for equalization among community colleges and SMC got $3.6 million of that.

While this is true, Schwarzenegger also, to avoid raising taxes, borrowed about $2 billion from school funds, with a promise to pay it back. The money, owed to schools under Proposition 98, was sacrificed by school officials under the condition that schools would be offered their fair share of any additional state revenues and spared cuts in future years. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger is not what you would call a man of his word; tax revenues did increase this year, but the Governor's IOU remains unpaid.

With his Proposed State Budget 2005-06, Schwarzenegger let education down again. He technically added money this time but as LA Times columnist, George Skelton puts it, "Schwarzenegger didn't just renege on the deal. He is pushing a budget "reform" to amend Prop. 98 so that repayment of back money owed schools - roughly $4 billion - is stretched out over 15 years and not added to the guaranteed base." Prop. 98, which sets a minimum funding guarantee for schools, was created to protect schools and students from budget cuts. Schwarzenegger's proposal actually adds new requirements without commitment to adequate and stable funding.

The ones who will pay for this are not the taxpayers, but students and teachers all over California. Tuition fees will keep increasing, classrooms will be overcrowded, teachers will be underpaid and the quality of public education will worsen.

Are we supposed to reward, applaud or simply ignore these outrageous acts when the Governor stands before us?

Schwarzenegger's political strategies regarding education are indeed a controversial matter. Protests will steel some of the spotlight from our hard-working graduates, but I highly doubt that teachers and students of SMC will let the Governor's appearance pass unnoticed. So far, teachers, parents and students that are pro-education, con-Arnold have united in protests all over the state.

Yes, he is "the Terminator." Yes, he did attend SMC at some point in his life. But Robertson underestimated the political awareness of SMC students, who will see through the Governors white and bright Hollywood smile. I know that I will have a hard time concealing my disapproval.

Jennie Branden, student at SMC.