Fast Tracking My Bill to Increase Higher Education Funding
While California is preparing to go into special session next month to consider legislation to help it receive millions in federal Race to the Top Kindergarten-12 education funds, I’m asking the state to also fast track my bill to provide the community colleges and public universities with more than $1.3 billion.
As we have witnessed from the thousands of students, faculty and staff who marched and protested last week, higher education funding is an urgent matter that demands our action. The Race to the Top will lead to a dead end if we deny California’s high school graduates a chance to pursue a higher education in our own state universities and community colleges.
AB 656 would enact an oil and natural gas severance fee and direct the revenue to higher education. California is the only major oil-producing state without such a fee. It is a fair solution to our higher education funding crisis, and one that would stop the need for rampant fee increases, such as the 32 percent hike passed last week by the University of California’s Board of Regents. Texas and Alaska are two states that direct oil revenue to their higher education system.
These colleges and universities are a driving force behind the California economy. They educate and train our workforce, pull in millions in research grants and provide our state with a terrific return on our investment.
But if we continue with the status quo approach of endless budget cuts and fee increases, hundreds of thousands of students will be turned away. We cannot expect to have a vibrant economy if we spend more on prisons than we do universities.
The Assembly is expected to go into special session in the middle of December to consider the Race to the Top legislation. AB 656 is currently scheduled to be heard in January before the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.