Friday, January 8, 2010

The Governor’s Bold Plan or Another Media Event?

In his State of the State address, Governor Schwarzenegger proposed an ambitious plan for a constitutional amendment to support higher education. The central idea behind this new idea is that the state should reverse its current trend of spending more on incarceration than higher education. As the governor stressed, the state funding for public universities once represented 10% of the budget and prisons made up 3% of the budget; currently, UC and CSU take up 7.5% and prisons eat up 11%. The amendment, which has to be supported by 2/3rds of the legislators and a majority of the voters, would guarantee that universities receive at least 10% of the state general fund budget, and prisons would always receive a lower percentage.

On paper, this looks like a very hopeful proposal, but there are four major problems. The first issue is that the California budget is already dominated by voter approved funding mandates. Many experts blame the recent draconian budget cuts on the fact that not only is it difficult for the state to raise taxes, but lawmakers are forced to spend most of the budget on mandated areas. While the new amendment would treat the universities like K-14, by dictating a certain set formula for funding higher education, the result would be to further tie the hands of the legislators when dealing with budget deficits.

The next problem is that the governor’s main way of reducing the cost of the prison system is to privatize the prisons, and this is a highly unlikely solution. Not only would this amendment have to take on the powerful correctional officers' union, but there is no way of knowing how much privatization would save or if privatization is even a good idea. The real way to bring down the cost of incarceration is to reduce the number of prisoners, and this can only be done by changing the “three strikes” rule and by decriminalizing some non-violent offences like drug possession.

The third problem is that this legislation does nothing to deal with how universities spend the money they get from the state. It is possible that the universities would use the new funds to simply increase the number of administrators. Without tying funding to fiscal accountability measures, new money may just be funneled into old priorities, and the UC has shown that it has no problem using increased funding to support activities unrelated to the university’s core mission.

The fourth major issue is that this is a long-term solution that may undermine the current push to make changes in the UC system. If students, faculty, and workers believe that the governor understands their problems, and he is on their side, they may find that there is no reason to fight against the current decrease in services and the increase in fees. Like the election of Barack Obama, the social movement on the ground may disappear because the leader is saying all of the right things.

The governor did say that he will not cut higher education this year, and this is a good thing, but President Yudof is asking for a major increase in funding, and if he does not get this increase, we will probably see a continued move to raise fees, cut services, and lower the quality of public higher education. The university has already radically reduced its funding for undergraduate education, and there is reason to believe that this agenda will be pursued in the future unless people rise up on the ground and fight for a different vision of the university. In fact, in The New York Times article covering the governor's new proposal, his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, is quoted as saying that. "“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point." It appears our actions have had some effect, but we cannot stop now.

24 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Why are prisons getting more funds than education to begin with? I agree with the governor that education should receive more funds than incarceration. The privatization of prison is not a bad idea considering it would allow for more university spending. Thinking about the future generations of our society, our government should not spend more money on prisons than they do on education because in essence, it will be sending young children a wrong message and image about what society/our government values more.

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  3. I agree with the governor’s belief that more money should be spent on education and less on prisons. However, I believe that his plan falls short. With the privatization of prisons, prison owners may attempt to increase profit by trying to gain inmates. The United States already has the largest prison population of any country in the world, and privatizing prisons would only serve to make the situation worse. In addition, I have read that some prisons even have televisions in them. If the government really wanted to save money on prisons, I believe that they could save money by forgoing such items. After all, prisoners are locked up to be punished, not entertained.

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  4. Maybe one part bold plan, the other part media event.
    Do you not view 2/3rds and a majority of the voters as a potential major problem?
    What you view as a third problem in this proposal is certainly founded, and I think that may well be the key problem. Any extra money appropriated to higher education should come with conditions to prevent the investment practices of our heinous UC heads.
    Moreover, I agree that this is a long-term plan that might undermine the current activism going on. There is no reason not to advocate a shorter solution to remedy things now, and to take upon this ambitious vision likely to meet many impediments.

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  5. When people are disgusted by the cuts to education in California, they often forget how difficult it is to manipulate the budget. Like you said, much of the budget is made up of voter approved mandates, and any change is going to lead to a cut in something else. I think the largest flaw in this plan is the privatization of prisons aspect. Prisons should not be left up to the private sector. The number of inmates would increase and the quality of their life would decrease because the prison is now a business that is trying to make money. I also agree with the fact that the UC system has to be accountable. There should be some system in place regulating how they spend the money (otherwise you might get what happened with the president's bank bailout). Hopefully these problems are addressed before it shows up on a ballot.

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  6. I'm going to go ahead and say this plan by the Governor is just another media event. I think the Governor is simply addressing the recent protests at the UC campuses by appearing to have higher education as a priority. It is much easier to cut educational funds than it is to cut prison funds since criminals pose such a threat to society. Also, the protests have opened the eyes to the Governor that increasing fees/ tuition will not sit easy with students, and he will get an earful every time higher public education is affected negatively.

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  7. In my opinion, placing more funds towards education will in itself decrease the necessity of funds towards prisons. Educated citizens are far less likely to commit crimes than high school or college dropouts. (This of course is assuming that the increase in UC funds will actually go towards improving education rather than finding a home in administrator wallets.) Even though this seems like another one of Arnold's media events, the important part about this is that the protestor's desires are reaching the ears of the top of California's government.

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  8. Prison and university costs in California are spiraling out of control. Both of these ask for more money each year and it is inevitable that one will receive more funding than the other. How the prison system came out on top is beyond me. Reform is obviously needed, but as this is state reform, we can never be sure what will happen if anything.

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  9. It is quite shocking that the state of California puts more money into prisons than into higher education. What is this really saying about the values of the society? One of the biggest issues comes from the unnecessary spending in the prison system. Plenty of seemingly petty crimes are punished by jail time, and this is a big contributor to the wasting of precious state money. There is no reason why non-violent offenders of drug laws should be imprisoned. This is simply a waste of space, time and most importantly money – especially when this money could be used in a much more advantageous fashion. If we can eliminate at least some unnecessary spending in the prison system, we can have a larger budget for higher education, which seems now to be falling through the cracks. Hopefully the ideas that the governor has on this subject are not just for show; hopefully there is some truth behind them.

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  10. I’m going to agree with the governor and say that yes, more funds should be spent on education. There is no way that prisons should be receiving more funds than education anyway, and the fact that they are is sad. Instead of using money in areas where sometimes help is lost, such as prison, we should put it to good use and give more to schools in hopes of better educating our future workers.

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  11. How did prisons only make up 3% of the budget at one point, and why can't it go back to that? I think that, like the article mentions, law enforcement should reevaluate the severity of crimes. Why send drug users to jail? Also, before Universities get more money, I think we need to fix the problem of the "administrators over education" attitude that seems to be ruling our UC system, becuase even if we do get an increased budget, if the money goes to the wrong cause, what's the point?

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  12. I hate hearing about the fact that prisons receive more funding than education. I cannot fathom why this is. I feel that prisoners have lost their chance at living a full life, especially the ones who have taken another person’s life. Prisoners should not have any amenities that are not necessary to live. I have heard that some prisons provide cable televisions and things along that line. The fact that prisoners are allowed to live should be enough for them. Spending more on prisons than education is unacceptable. Education should be one of the top things on every budget because educated people make the world better in every aspect. I firmly believe that if more people were educated then there would be less crime and the spending on prisons would reduce itself.

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  13. This might (heavy emphasis on might) look good on paper; however, I highly doubt this will lead to anything but a debacle in real life. Our prisons are already over crowded and prisoners live in horrible conditions, simply reducing their budget isn't going to do anything but make matters worse. If this was coupled with a plan to REDUCE the actual rate of incarceration and keep, for example, non-violent offenders out of jails, then perhaps it would work. As it stands, we would simply be shifting money around from one underfunded institution to another. But I suppose hoping for anything else would be naive; think how silly it would be for the haves to lose a pound in the lean times.

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  14. I agree that the governor’s proposal is using education as the bill’s selling point. To justify the governor’s plan of privatlizing prisions, he attaches it with saving money for the state’s education. Although changing the “three strikes” rule (or even legalizing certain illegal substances) will save and generate money for the state, I think privitalizing prisons seems like a solution more appealing to the public.

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  15. How is privatizing prisons going to create enough revenue for UCs to have 10% of the budget. With private prisons, there less regulation and this could causes security problems. Also the state should require that the money paid by undergraduates should strictly be used on undergraduate programs and similarly with graduate programs.

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  16. Schwarzenegger knows, for a fact, that this measure will not pass. He is attempting to gain back the respect he lost from the public by playing a game of charades and hoping that the masses do not pick up on it.

    However, as soon as the public realizes this, Schwarzenegger's reputation will sink faster than Rosie O' Donnell eats Twinkies and he'll be back to square one.

    Unless the elitist system, disguised as a federalist democracy, on which we currently run under is replaced with a populace commonwealth, then the game of charades will continue. Bravo Mr. Government. You've got my vote.

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  17. I completely agree with the Gov.’s new plan. However, I find it ironic how it is the prisoners who are getting higher funds than the public education. Aren’t we the future of tomorrow? Though this proposal is good I find it hard for it to pass because Californians are already paying the highest taxes in all states. It’s a good plan, but I am not sure it will get approved.

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  18. I agree that their should be a larger emphasis on education in terms of funding; however, if the state appropriates more money to the UC system, that is not to say that the UC system will not hide those funds and continue raising tuition. The real work needs to be done in rebuilding the UC system instead of how they’re going to allocate the state’s money. I agree that minor offenses should become decriminalized so that our tax money is not all allocated to house prisoners. Legalizing certain illegal substances would also create a large amount of revenue that the state and UC system cannot deny they need.

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  19. It amazes me how we give so much money to the prison. I don’t get how we can be giving more money to them and not the universities where people are actually are trying to have a future. Hopefully education will get more funding.

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  20. Thanks but no thanks, Governor? Since reading these articles, I have a different view of higher education funding. I almost don't want the UC system to be given more funds because I don't trust the regents will use them beneficially for students, which they should be. I feel like there should be a change in the UC budget planning first.

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  21. I agree with the governor's plan to spend more money on education and less on prisons. I had begun to think he wasn't aware of where the money was going to. I think the governor should go a step further and find a way to get Yudof to spend more money on education.

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  22. Spending more money on education is a good idea. However, that money should be regulated, especially the one going to the UC system. I'm surprised it has gone so long without being regulated.

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  23. This article definitely changed my opinion on giving the UC system more money. Giving them more money is not going to solve the problem. They first to need develop a student and education centered budget before they get their hands on anymore money. All they are going to do is pass it around to each other and then ask for more. We do need to spend more money on education but we need to first find a way to make sure that is really where the money is going.

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