Calif. Voters Approve Ballot Measure to Stave Off ‘Trigger Cuts’ at State Colleges

On the same night that President Obama won a convincing victory in a race for re-election that at one time was considered too close to call, Gov. Jerry Brown of California appears to have pulled off a win in a similar squeaker. The Democratic governor declared victory for Proposition 30, a ballot measure crucial to the financial future of California’s public colleges. Proposition 30 led 54 percent to 46 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

Governor Brown introduced the measure in order to help cover a $16.7-billion state-budget shortfall. If it passed, Prop 30 would raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent and increase the income tax on top earners. If it failed, the governor’s 2013 budget called for a series of “trigger cuts” that would reduce state support for the University of California system, the California State University system, and the California Community Colleges by nearly $1-billion.

Polls earlier this year indicated that a majority of the state’s voters supported the measure, with as much as 64 percent in favor. But criticism from the state’s strong antitax forces and competition from a competing education-based measure, Proposition 38, eroded voter support as Election Day drew near.

Under California law and the language of the measures, Prop 30 needed to earn 50 percent or more of the vote, and to earn a larger percentage than Prop 38 did, if the latter also surpassed 50-percent approval. But voters handily rejected Prop 38, with 74 percent opposed as of early Wednesday morning.

With the passage of Prop 30, state appropriations for public colleges will remain near 2012 levels for 2013. The three tiers of California’s public higher-education system have seen their state appropriations reduced by more than $2.5-billion since 2008.

Via Lee Gardner, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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In Calif., Prop 30 is Crucial to Serve More Student Veterans

From the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, leaders from southern California community colleges on Wednesday made a simple point: Shrinking state funding is curbing their ability to serve returning military veterans eager to continue their higher education.

More than 20,000 veterans, active military and their dependents joined leaders from nine community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties to urge state lawmakers to pay attention to the issue, which will grow more dire as more veterans return from tours of the Middle East over the next several months.

With four years of state budget cuts, college leaders said the results of the November election will determine whether they will be forced to make even sharper cutbacks in classes that will delay the progress of veterans and other students trying to complete their education.

“We’re very proud to shine the light on the role of community colleges in the county to serve veterans,” Cindy Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, said at a news conference hosted by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA). “But we are dealing with ever-dwindling resources.”

$30M at Stake

At the press conference aboard the historic battleship, Southwestern College student veteran Vincent Avila-Walker asked how Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, will affect community colleges and their ability to serve veterans. Without passage of Prop 30, SDICCCA colleges will face midyear budget cuts of more than $30 million and 10,000 students won’t be able to take the classes they need. <Read more.>

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

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Calif. Governor Signs Bills Giving Digital Textbooks and Other Help to Students

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Thursday a number of bills affecting California colleges and their students, including two measures designed to provide students with access to free online textbooks for 50 undergraduate courses. The measures (Senate Bills 1052 and 1053) establish a nine-member faculty council that will identify the classes for which open-source digital textbooks should be developed and oversee the texts’ development, and create a digital library to house the textbooks and other courseware. “There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics, or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200,” the State Senate’s president pro tempore, Darrell Steinberg, author of the two bills, said in a written statement. (Read more.)

Via Charles Huckabee, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Click here to see other measures signed into law.

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California Limits Role of Student Tests in API Scores

California’s key measure of public school quality will be redefined to lessen the impact of standardized test scores under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), will broaden how the Academic Performance Index is calculated by limiting test scores to 60% for high schools and including graduation rates and other factors.

The 1,000-point index, which is currently based entirely on student test scores, has been criticized as an inaccurate gauge of campus quality even as it is widely used by parents to choose schools and real estate agents to sell homes.

“For years, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas,” Steinberg said in a statement. “But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids.”

Test scores must count for at least 60% of the API for elementary and middle schools, where alternative data are less developed.

Under the new law, the state Board of Education will work with the state superintendent of public instruction to incorporate other factors into the index, such as student readiness for college and technical training. The law specifies an increased emphasis on science and social science, which carry little weight in the current API. (Read more.)

Via Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times found on Education Week.

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CTE Legislative Update

Higher Education Regulations Proposed by Dept. of Ed. in Effect
In June, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved H.R. 2117, the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act, to repeal unnecessary credit hour and state authorization regulations to protect institutions of higher education and students from excessive burdens (See NASDCTEc’s blog  “House Approves Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act”).
Read more.

Debt Ceiling Talks Update
President Obama echoed yesterday a statement that he has made before about the deficit-reduction talks: “Nothing is agreed to until everything’s agreed to.”
Read more.

Bills Introduced:

  • State and Local Funding Flexibility Act
  • Put America to Work Act
  • Preserve State/Institution Authority on Authorization and Credit Hour
  • Bill to Amend WIA and Promote Manufacturing
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