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What Happened to Higher Education in California? September 27, 2009

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education, politics.
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For readers unacquainted with the background to the budget cuts that will cripple education in California for generations, here is a quick primer from Calitics.

It’s been a long time, nearly 50 years, since Governor Pat Brown‘s vision for California brought us what was so frequently dubbed the “California Dream.” We had infrastructure that rivaled if not exceeded any in the world. We had a strong social safety net that enabled Californians to pursue careers in the burgeoning middle class. And we had the “Master Plan for Higher Education” that promised highly subsidized education for those Californians that met a basic set of requirments, and shut nobody out.

At the heart of the Master Plan, were the community colleges. The community colleges allowed students who underperformed at high schools to get back on track for a higher degree. They were to be plentiful, high-quality, and cheap. The state was going to kick in 35-40% of the operating revenue, with a bunch of additional funding coming from the county level. You may think that strange given the way the state works today, but back then, pre-Prop 13, counties actually had their own sources of revenue. They could rely on the property taxes and other local taxes to provide opportunities to fund programs like the community colleges.

Then Proposition 13 and the rest of the right-wing agenda happened

And with the election of Ronald Reagan, and later Deukmejian and Wilson, and to an extent, even Brown’s son Jerry, the Master Plan has been gradually chipped away. As we stand right now, of the approximately $18 Billion UC budget, around $3 Billion now comes from the state.

Community Colleges and the Cal State system have also seen declining support from the state over the past 30 years. In fact, the main factor in increases in college tuition across the country over the past 20 years is declining state support for higher education.

We have destroyed what was once the envy of the world, and are hard at work turning it in to nothing better than a mid-level private education system.

In the words of Berkeley professor George Lakoff:

It is about whether we have a democracy that works for the common good, or a plutocracy that privileges the wealthy and powerful. Privatizing the world’s greatest public university is a giant step away from democracy.”(Berkeley Daily Planet 9/17/09

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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