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Education funding should be a top priority

Local Commentary

Posted: April 27, 2008 7:41 p.m.
Updated: June 28, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
California faces some very difficult times, given the state's budget deficit. In January, the governor announced a $14.5 billion shortfall.

Some immediate cuts to spending by the Legislature got the deficit down to $8 billion. However, if income tax revenue is less than expected, the deficit could easily go back up to more than $10 billion. Wherever the shortfall ends up, it will be significant.

To deal with the ongoing deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed 10 percent across-the-board reductions in state spending for the 2008-09 budget year. This would translate to a cut of $292 million for the community college system and $1.5 million for College of the Canyons, specifically.

These cuts come on the heels of a $1.1 million cut to the College of the Canyons current budget with just three months left in the fiscal year - cuts triggered by property tax revenue shortfalls throughout the state.
The task facing our legislators as they deal with these structural deficits is not an easy one. Reductions will have to be made, and no one wants his or her program to be cut. The governor's approach to next year's budget - cut all state programs 10 percent - assumes that all programs are needed equally, given our state's difficult economic times.

I'm not convinced that this is true. Instead, our legislators will have to set priorities and make some difficult decisions.

Educated workforce lifts economy
Education needs to be seen as a priority. Given the knowledge and training that higher education offers to California's workforce, we are among the few state programs that can play an active role in reversing our sinking economy.

With the support of our community, we at College of the Canyons have a track record for preparing students to transfer and for delivering relevant education and training programs. With the help of local hospitals, and fire and police agencies, we train professions who serve us all, like health-care providers and first responders.

With investments from the federal government and support from Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, the college has purchased equipment for important programs like the University Center, Medical Lab Technician Training, and Advanced Technology, including nanotechnology and biotechnology.

With the support of voters, we have facilities that can accommodate the training needed. With these things in place, we need operational funding from the state to keep instructors in the classrooms and students in the seats so they can be trained and move into cutting-edge, high-paying jobs.

Specific fixes
We are asking you to help us continue all these great programs and services at the level our community needs. You can make a difference by contacting our legislators and sharing with them the benefits education provides to our community. Here are three suggestions:

* The long-term fix is to develop a two-year state budget. This will help schools and colleges plan. Cuts should not be made after our resources have been committed, after we have served the students and paid the instructors to teach the classes.

* The state should apply any one-time money available to cover the property tax shortfall for 2007-08.
* Lastly, education should be a priority for the 2008-09 budget.

Across-the-board reductions are an overly simplistic approach to a complex problem.

You can find more information about the budget and its impact, and on how to contact the governor and our legislators, by visiting the College of the Canyons advocacy Web site at  www.canyons.edu/offices/president/advocacy. Take the time to get involved. The issues are too great for us to ignore.

Barry Gribbons is assistant superintendent/vice president of Institutional Development, Technology and Online Services at College of the Canyons. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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