Opponents and proponents of Proposition 92 agree on one thing: The California community colleges have been consistently shortchanged when funding has been doled out over the last 20 years.
The two-year college system is comprised of 109 colleges operated by 72 districts and serves nearly 2.5 million students annually. In fact, according to the measure's supporters 70 percent of all Californians attending college are enrolled in a community college, and one-third of all University of California graduates and two-thirds of California State University grads started out at a community college.
According to Proposition 98, a measure passed by voters in 1998 that details how much money should be allocated to education spending per year, community colleges are supposed to receive 10.93 percent. However, the two-year higher education system has received consistently less than that each year. According to the legislative analyst statement on the ballot, the schools receive between 10 and 11 percent.
Supporters of the measure estimated that over the last 15 years, community colleges have been shortchanged about $4 billion.
While the difference may seem minuscule, according to a senior fiscal policy analyst in the Legislative Analysts Office (LAO), when billions of dollars are involved, anything less than full funding is considered a cut.
Consequently, the California Community College League co-sponsored Prop. 92, which appears on the Feb. 5 ballot. The constitutional amendment would do the following:
(1) Establish a new and separate funding minimum for community colleges, and change the formula that determines how much money the schools would receive. Currently the two-year colleges are lumped in with the K-12 schools, and the amount colleges receive is based on average daily attendance at the lower level schools.
This would change under Prop 92. Community college growth would be separated from K-12, and instead be primarily based on the young adult population (17 to 21 or 22 to 25, whichever is larger), and there would be a five-percent cap on how much enrollment could grow.
As a result of the change, it is estimated that the K-14 system would gain an average of $300 million additional dollars for the 2007-08 through 2009-10 fiscal years. Half of this money would go to the K-12 system in the first two years, and most of the new funding would go to the community colleges, in year three. K-12 would still receive funding under Proposition 98.
From fiscal year 2010-11 on, the legislative analyst does not expect the new Prop. 92 formula to be in effect because the combined mini funding levels for K-14 would most likely fall bellow 40 percent of state general fund revenues to be spent.
(2) Cut student fees from $20 to $15 per unit beginning in Fall 2008. It also changes the legislature's authority to increase fees in subsequent years. To make a change would require a two-thirds vote of both houses. Additionally, the increase would limit any bump up to the lower of 10 percent or the percentage change in the state's per-capita personal income (it typically averages about 4 percent).