Oaths of Arnold

SN&R’s semi-regular progress report on the Governator’s campaign promises

Courtesy Of ZUMA Press

This week: education

The promise: Throughout his campaign and current reign as governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly has pledged an unyielding allegiance to education, stating, “Education is the key to every future success for our state. The state has the responsibility to offer all of California’s children an equal opportunity to receive a quality education.” In addition, Schwarzenegger declared that, if he were elected, education would be cut only “over my dead body.”

The reversal: As outlined in the 2004 budget proposal, Schwarzenegger calls for a cut of roughly $2 billion from the overall funding increase that public schools expected to receive for 2004-2005. This proposal would increase education spending by only half of what California public schools are legally entitled to by Proposition 98, the voter-approved, constitutionally mandated measure guaranteeing that 40 percent of the state’s general fund go to education. When asked what this would mean for the funding guaranteed by Proposition 98, Schwarzenegger said, “Maybe have a suspension to have some relief there, so you can pull out of this next two years and then pay it back, maybe.”

The numbers: If approved, Schwarzenegger’s 2004 budget proposal will send shockwaves through California’s educational system. K-12 public schools will receive $2 billion less of a funding increase owed to them by law for 2004-2005. Schwarzenegger has promised sizeable payouts to these schools in the coming years but only if California’s budget can afford them. Those attending a public university will take a big hit because of a proposed $729 million cut to higher education. Here, tuition will increase by 10 percent for undergraduate students and by 40 percent for graduate students. This increase comes after public-university students were hit with a 40-percent tuition increase just last year. For those attending community colleges, things look even bleaker. There, tuition will increase by 44 percent, from $18 to $26 per unit, following a 64-percent increase just last year. The governor’s proposal also calls for a reduction in financial aid at University of California (UC) schools, from 33 percent of student fees to 20 percent becoming available for the year to come. Schwarzenegger’s proposal also will cut funding for college outreach programs. These programs, designed to prepare disadvantaged students for college by linking college campuses and low-performing public schools, will suffer a $33 million cut at UC schools and $52 million at California State University (CSU) schools.

The bottom line: As the governor’s ax cuts through the education budget, new realities will take shape. CSU officials say the governor’s proposed budget cuts could mean cutting enrollment by 20,000 students. UC officials claim that the student-faculty ratio for UC schools will increase from the current 19.7-to-1 to 20.7-to-1. UC officials also claim that community-college transfer students will face even stronger opposition in transferring to UC campuses. This year, the applications from some 1,500 students who hoped to transfer could not even be considered because of insufficient funding.

The sequel: Although it seems California may be seeing fewer and fewer “My Kid is an Honor Roll Student at …” bumper stickers in its future, rest assured that another, more-convincing bumper sticker easily could take its place: “My governor could kick your governor’s ass.”

Special interests update: To date, Schwarzenegger has raised more than $15 million in contributions from various interests. To accommodate such hefty donations, just before Christmas, Schwarzenegger created the “Governor Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Team,” in an effort to bypass a California campaign-finance law limiting contributions to $21,200. This has enabled him to receive another $200,000 (on top of the $100,000 from American International Group Inc.) from five major out-of-state insurance firms that would love a stake in the state’s large workers’ compensation market.