Budget committee turns down

Darleen Principe

Members of California’s Assembly/Senate Budget Conference Committee voted unanimously against adding $75.7 million June 11-12 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2006-2007 CSU budget, according to the California Faculty Association.

Despite ongoing efforts made by the CFA to gain Assembly support for the additional 3 percent increase, the committee voted to maintain the Senate’s original budget, which gives the CSU system 3 percent already included in the governor’s May budget revision.

“I’m disappointed in the legislature,” said David Ballard, CSUN professor and CFA president of the Northridge chapter. “They’re not putting the money back into higher education.”

The CFA’s initiative to get a 6 percent total increase in funding for the CSU system this year came after a series of budget cuts since 2002, totaling up to nearly $500 million, according to the CFA.

The additional money could have been used to increase faculty salaries, hire more tenure-track professors, increase the number of available classes and improve other student services, according to Ballard.

“Students are paying more and more, while getting less and less,” Ballard said.

According to a 2004 higher education compact signed by the governor and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, the chancellor committed a six-year funding plan to the CSU that placed a cap on base budget increases until the 2010-11 school year. The plan also promised to increase student fees yearly until 2006-07.

The CSU will receive no more than 3 percent yearly budget increases through 2006-07 and no more than 4 percent yearly until the 2010-11 school year, according to the compact. Also, student fees increased by 14 percent during 2004-05 and by 8 percent during 2005-06.

CFA members, however, are still concerned that the lack of additional state funding will contribute to further problems for the CSU, such as recruitment and maintenance of high-quality faculty. Ballard said that new faculty members often leave after just a few years because the pay is largely disproportionate to the high workload.

“How are we going to keep good quality faculty if the CSU continues to drive them away by not getting the funding that is needed?” Ballard said. “The chancellor sold out the students and the faculty.”

For students, the turnover of faculty translates into fewer classes, greater chances of being unable to enroll in the classes needed and inflexibility of class schedules, said Ballard.

Despite Reed’s signature on the compact, he did write a letter to Wes Chesbro, chair of the Budget Conference Committee, indicating his support for the addition of the $75.7 million to the CSU budget weeks before the committee’s vote, according to the CFA.

Paul Browning, CSU chancellor spokesperson, said that Reed could not have done anything else to get more funding for the CSU.

“The collective bargaining process is difficult and complex,” Browning said. “It’s a frustrating situation for the CSU and CFA to come to a mutual agreement, but we try to do so in a respectable and professional manner.”

Ballard said that he believes the additional funding was not approved by the conference committee because the request came from the CFA. He said there would have been a better chance of getting the additional funds onto the budget if the request had instead come from the CSU.

The office of the Chancellor was unable to give any further comment in regards to the CFA.

“It’s not a matter of whether the CSU needs the money or not,” Browning said.