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Scott Wilk: Students held hostage by Gov.’s Prop 30

Posted: August 17, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2012 2:00 a.m.

It doesn’t feel like it because of our record heat wave, but a new school year is upon us. Many moms will shed a tear as their precious kindergartener steps into the classroom for the first time. Other parents will wave goodbye as their child, now an adult, pulls out of the driveway, car packed and headed to a faraway college campus.

Raising children, one discovers that the days can be long, but the years short. Our children, Scott Jr. and Alison Grace, have both completed college. Scott Jr. lives and works an hour away, and Alison recently became engaged and will be leaving the nest soon enough.

My wife, Vanessa, and I have all their college tuition paid off and now face a single wedding in our financial future.

However, the majority of California parents with college-age children face a much different reality than even my family experienced just a few short years ago. Tuition at both the University of California and California State University systems has increased due to budget cuts.

A Public Policy Institute of California study shows that enrollment rates of recent California high school graduates to either the UC or CSU systems has fallen by one-fifth. Is this because general-fund allocations for higher education have fallen by $1.6 billion over the last 10 years?

Education is the best pathway to success in American society. A quality education affords the opportunity for anyone to reach his or her dreams.

Studies have shown that on average college graduates will earn nearly $1 million more in their lifetimes than those without a degree. It’s simply much easier to achieve the American dream armed with a college education.

The Public Policy Institute of California also found that by 2025, without decisive action, California could have 1 million fewer college graduates than needed for the projected workforce.

California was ranked the worst state in which to do business for eight consecutive years by Chief Executive magazine; lack of a college-educated workforce provides just another reason why businesses will flee our state for better opportunities elsewhere.

The Public Policy Institute study stated that only modest changes were needed to stop the projected shortfall of qualified workers: increasing higher education funding; improving transfer rates to four-year universities; guaranteeing a set, four-year tuition schedule, as other states do; and funding schools at least partly by graduation rates and not just student enrollment.

How do we achieve these goals? We must recommit state funding to higher education.

This November, voters can take the first step in fixing this budgeting fiasco by approving Proposition 31. Proposition 31 establishes a two-year state budget cycle as opposed to the current one-year model. It also requires performance reviews of all state programs and would require performance goals.

Switching to a performance-based budget will force the Legislature to set priorities so colleges and universities aren’t faced with the uncertainty they face now. As a College of the Canyons trustee, I have seen this first hand.

By law, COC must pass our budget before the state produces its budget. Our board and administration act rationally; however, Sacramento often does not. This requires our college to turn on a dime mid-year because Sacramento officials miscalculated their financial projections.

Gov. Jerry Brown has his tax-increase initiative on the ballot in Proposition 30. He recently told voters that without approval of his tax increase, UC and CSU schools each face a $250 million cut while community colleges are threatened with a $300 million reduction.

While Brown holds our college students hostage, he is willing to fund pie-in-the-sky projects like high-speed rail. Brown has stated that without approval of Proposition 30’s massive tax hike, higher education systems will be cut by $800 million. That sounds a lot like blackmail to me.

Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at University of Southern California, said that Brown’s tax proposal was the most expensive ransom note in California history.

I agree — it’s time for the governor to come clean with the motives behind his tax proposal. Sacramento must quit the political games and take a real-world approach to funding higher education so that our children have a renewed shot at the American Dream.

Join me in supporting Proposition 31 as a first step toward bringing common sense budgeting to Sacramento, so that our students’ future, not pet projects, are supported with your tax dollars.

Scott Wilk is a small business owner, a member of the California Republican Party appointed by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, a College of the Canyons trustee and the Republican candidate for California Assembly District 38.


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