CFA lobbies to increase budget funding to education

Daily Sundial

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In a reaction to recent budget cut proposals, members of the California Faculty Association are speaking out to local legislators, trying to convince them to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop taking away much needed funds from the budget.

Since the 2003-04 school year, the CSU system has suffered a budget cut of almost a half billion dollars. Now, according to numbers released by the CSU website, Schwarzenegger wants to cut as much as $240 million more.

“California is the fifth richest economy in the world,” said Kristyan Kouri, co-vice president of the CFA and a lecturer in the Sociology and Women’s Studies departments. “Surely the governor can find the money to provide its citizens with a quality education.”

The CFA has organized lobby days during the school year, in which faculty, students, parents and community leaders go to the offices of local legislators and state senators to discuss the budget, including “how CSUN students are being short-changed under the governor’s policies,” Kouri said.

The CFA will lobby at local legislators’ offices on March 4, followed by a two-day trip to Sacramento to lobby in May.

“We want to stop the loss of access for qualified students in California seeking an education,” said Cecile Bendavid, the political action chair for the CFA and a part-time lecturer in the Computer Science Department.

According to Bendavid, in the past academic year, at least 15,000 eligible students were denied admittance to the 23 schools in the CSU system. Numbers like these have motivated the CFA to lobby for a change.

“We believe that without our efforts, at least 25,200 eligible students will also be denied access in 2005-06,” Bendavid said.

The governor’s new budget proposal will mean a 10 percent fee increase for undergraduate students, which would raise the state university fee from $2,046 to $2,250 per year, according to the CSU website. Graduate students will see a 40 percent increase in tuition, and nonresident students will have to pay 20 percent more in tuition.

If the governor goes through with his budget cut, the CSU system will have seen a fund cut of $771 million since the 2003 school year, or a 28.8 percent reduction in student support, according to the CSU website.

“The funding for the CSU is not enough to maintain a quality education,” said Audrena Redmond, regional staff representative and organizer for the CFA. “The governor can do better in terms of prioritizing education.”

Redmond said the budget is the foremost issue on the minds of the CFA and others who lobby during the organized lobby days.

“Everything is about the budget,” Redmond said.

In anticipation of the budget cuts, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed has asked that no new contracts for non-essential services or purchases of equipment be awarded, according to the CSU website. Reed is also asking that employees hold off on non-essential travel to seminars or conferences, as well as keep track of expenses for supplies.

As well as establishing lobby days, the CFA is organizing a petition drive, which faculty members are signing to encourage the governor to increase state funding for the 2005-06 CSU budget.

The petition calls for the governor to increase enrollment growth funding, provide for more tenure-track positions, reduce class sizes, improve faculty-student ratios and protect student access and affordability.

“This (petition) drive is the first step in CFA’s escalating campaign to secure state funding to rebuild the CSU,” Bendavid said. “Those involved in the petition drive, those who sign and collect signatures … will be taking the first step in joining the campaign effort on behalf of rebuilding the CSU.”