This is a defining moment for the state of
California. Politicians we elected to manage
the state's affairs are doing a not so bang up job, and that's putting it kindly. I'm sure there are more than a few citizens of our sunshine golden state who have some words, not to mention a couple choice expletives for the embattled governor Arnold "the Governator" Schwarzenegger, whose job
it is to straighten out California's budget
debacle. But the Governator doesn't appear
equipped to handle the strain of managing
the state's financial matters any more than
he is equipped to give birth, like he did in
the 1994 movie "Junior." In other words,
it just ain't gonna happen.
California's budget woes and dwindling
economy are just symptoms of a much larger
problem: lack of real leadership on the part
of our elected officials and an unwillingness
to admit they really don't have a solution.
In the world of politics misdirection and
illusion are synonymous with governing.
If Schwarzenegger keeps talking and
reassuring his constituents it may even seem
like he's getting things done, while. Iin factnothing is actually getting done. California still has an estimated $15-20 billion deficit and about $200 billion in outstanding debts.No one in the governor's administration seems capable of turning California's fiscal situation around so the result is cuts to public health, Medicaid for the elderly and poor, prison populations, AIDS programs and of course education. Oh, and let's not forget about that little thing called raised
If we just focus on education, what's
happening now to public schools can be best
described as a kind of pillaging. California
is bleeding billions of dollars annually and
can't pay its bills. Add to that the housing
bust and high unemployment and you've got
a menu with little food offerings. California
needs to find alternative sources for its
revenue shortage, because. Without it
education will continue to have its bones
picked clean. "All of California's public
schools are under attack because of the
current budget situation in the state," says
Robert Isomoto, Vice President of Business
and Administration at Santa Monica College.
"California can't just print more money like
the federal government and the less we get
from the state the more we have to cut,"
Isomoto continues. That means publicly
funded schools like SMC have no choice
but to reduce the number of classes offered,
trim contract services, cut some financial
aid programs and raise tuition fees. What
does all of this mean to current and potential students? The short answer is: everything.
Because of California's budget shortfall
and the lack of real legislative talent on
the part of our state's leaders, community
colleges and public education in general will
have no choice but to continue to cut, cut,
cut. Although 2009 enrollment numbers
are up, Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer
terms have been excised from between five
5 and fifty 50 percent, which translates to
more students competing for fewer classes.
Students depending on financial aid to
muscle through the soaring cost of tuition
and textbooks will also likely feel a pinch.
"It's a lot harder to pay tuition," says Ronald Williams, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in Communications. "Without financial aid I may just get my AA and not go onto a four year college," he continues. Fortunately,Cal Grants have yet to go under the knife so moderate income students still have a shot at a higher education, for now at least. Still, the cuts are hard for many students to swallow. Victor Garcia, another freshman admits, "It sucks but the money has to come from somewhere." Understatement? Say
it isn't so.
California legislators could use a
few tips from Santa Monica College
administrators on how to effectively manage
a budget. According to Bruce Smith, Public
Information Officer at SMC, the school has
"done very well managing spending" in
the face of California's current economic
turmoil. However, the situation for low income students doesn't bode quite so
favorably. Additional items on the chopping
block are EOPS, CARE, Disabled Student
Services, and Cal Works.
Thankfully SMC President, Chui L.
Tsang understands what cutting important
programs like Cal Works means to his
students and according to one source, is
why he has promised that the school will
make up 50% 50 percent of the difference
of what will be cut. If a program is cut 20%
20 percent, SMC will chip in 10% 10 percent
of its reserve dollars to keep these essential programs alive and thriving. In other words, SMC has got its students' backs.
California's current financial quagmire
isn't going away soon. We need to accept
the fact that this will be a long hard battle,and until California legislators get their acts together and actually force changes in how the state does its business, things will only get worse before the storm eventually breaks. There is a shared responsibility in all of this.We need to demand more from state leaders and pay closer attention to what's happening
in our state's legislative body. "Students
have a strong voice, it's important that they
stay informed of the state's budget situation
and get involved," Tuitasi says. Maybe the
Governator will concede, but SMC certainly
will not and for all of us that's a good thing.