By Megan Rawlins
Proposition 92 offers voters a chance to change community college funding, governing structure and student fees.
One of seven state propositions on the ballot, Proposition 92 is a constitutional amendment that would decrease student fees from $20 to $15 per unit; increase the number of members of the Board of Governors, the statewide governing body; and change the funding formula in a way that proponents say will stabilize community college funding.
California community colleges serve about 2.5 million students a year. According to the California Community Colleges System Office, about 42,000 of them attended a campus in the San Mateo County Community College District, which includes Canada College in Woodside, College of San Mateo in San Mateo, and Skyline College in San Bruno.
The proposition decouples the state's community college funding from K-12 funding and modifies the funding increase formula. Currently, community colleges fall under Proposition 98 funding formulas, which are based on K-12 enrollment and the economy.
Richard Hensen, president of Foothill and DeAnza Faculty Association and former president of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, a group sponsoring the initiative, explains the need for the decoupling: "We never know how much funding we'll get year to year. Our share is always politically determined based on K-12 needs." He adds that this limits the campuses' ability to project budgets.
The unstable funding source "is most clearly seen in our district's inability to hire full-time instructors for classes," says Patty Dilko, district academic senate president for the San Mateo County Community College District. Full-time faculty members, she adds, are responsible for program development, student advising and college governance.
The initiative would stabilize the funding source, says Mr. Hensen, and, because K-12 funding will be independent, it wouldn't take money from lower education.
Linda Craig, advocacy director of the League of Women Voters of California, which opposes Proposition 92, concedes that point but notes that any additional funds going to community colleges must come from somewhere.
"We approve of increased funding for community colleges," Ms. Craig explains, "but with the current budget crisis, money will be taken away from everything, and new guarantees at this point would be irresponsible."
Proposition 92 also recognizes the Board of Governors and local Board of Trustees in the constitution and transfers some power from the governor to the Board of Governors.
The most publicized aspect of the proposition is the change in fees. This is an attempt to increase the accessibility of community colleges to all Californians, a goal that proponents see as particularly important in economic downturns.
Ms. Craig and the League of Women Voters are wary of the student fee changes. Student fees in California are the lowest in the country already, she says, and the proposition would limit the Legislature's ability to raise fees. This would deprive community colleges of about $70 million annually, the league estimates.