BY JEREMY ARIAS
J-101 Staff Writer
Governor Gavin Newsom announced budget cuts to higher education to balance California’s budget following the COVID-19 pandemic.
With COVID-19’s unexpected impact on the state’s projected revenue, the budget revisions removes most of the new funds from the optimistic budget proposal passed in January. The revisions pertain to budget cuts in K-12 and higher education, which includes California Community Colleges.
“While the numbers have certainly changed, our values remain,” Newsom said during the Thursday press conference.
The revision projects a 22.3% decline of state revenue since the January proposal. This decline contributes to an estimated $54.3 billion budget shortfall in place of the surplus projected in January.
The State of California’s constitution mandates that all annual budgets passed be balanced. With a decline of state revenue and a growing deficit from the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom announced cuts, deferrals and cancellations of funds in an effort to pass a balanced budget in compliance with the state constitution and Proposition 98.
Proposition 98 is a voter -approved measure that guarantees the state’s K-12 and Community College system have a minimum budget set by the Local Control Funding Formula.
In order to fulfill these voter -approved measures, the revisions must include a reallocation of funds from the Prop 98 Guarantee reserve and Safety Net Reserve that will be used to fund schools over the next two years.
Newsom said most of the new expenses for the programs proposed in January, such as the preschool-for-all program, would be cut, as they were merely enhancements to the baseline budget.
One piece of aid from January’s projection, which has also been cut, is the 5% increase of California college aid.
California Community Colleges, as well as the California State Universities and Universities of California systems will all be seeing another 10% in cuts from their annual contribution in order to help balance the state budget. This 10% cut contributes to about $593 million in losses for California Community Colleges.
The Los Angeles Community College District reacted to the state budget in an email sent to faculty and staff, indicating the next steps.
The email stated that the administration was analyzing the budget to see how the new budget would affect the LACCD.
The State Department of Financing is scheduled to conduct a briefing with California Community Colleges to provide further guidance of the two-year system.
The email also affirms that the LACCD intends to leverage every resource in Sacramento and Washington D.C. to ensure that the district’s voices are heard and influence are present to continue the high investment in higher education.
The May revisions will maintain some of the assistance programs for California colleges. One of the assistance programs still in place is California’s two years of tuition free community college.
The revisions are also maintaining financial aid programs, such as the Cal Grant, California College Promise Fee Waiver, the Students with Dependent Children Cal Grant Supplement and the Middle Class Scholarship.
During the Thursday press conference, Newsom said the recipients of special education are often neglected and are vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. He said the state would not be cutting aid to special education programs.
Newsom said he was looking forward to the federal passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The CARES Act is a federal relief bill that aims to help California invest $4.4 billion in schools to address the learning loss students faced from school closures and online distance learning.
“One thing I know about cuts, there’s a human being behind every single number,” Newsom said reflecting his decision to make cuts, which he said could easily be eliminated with federal support.
“The President of the United States with the stroke of a pen could provide support for speaker Pelosi’s new HEROES Act, and these cuts would be eliminated,” Newsom said.
“If the federal government does what it must do under the circumstances to help states, large and small, all across the nation, these cuts would go away.”
Newsom assured that despite the lack of adequate support, the cuts are only temporary in order to help get California out of the crisis.
“You will hear cuts that make none of us proud, but the values nonetheless we are holding onto I think and hope will,” Newsom said as he explained the state would be working with school districts to guide them through the coming changes. In order to alleviate some of the economic burdens, the revised budget recommends community colleges streamline their Career Technical Education (CTE) in order to accelerate the rate at which students can apply for jobs. However, the revised budget cuts funding from the CTE programs it’s recommending colleges reorganize.