by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) is urging the FilAm community to vote for Proposition 92, a measure that would increase funding to statewide community colleges and lower student fees from $20 to $15 a unit.
“The Filipino community needs to understand that many FilAm nurses and health professionals working now started out in a community college,” said John Delloro, Dolores Huerta Labor Institute Executive director. Delloro along with APALA leaders and community college advocates spoke during a press conference held at East Los Angeles Community College last January 29.
It is estimated that 2.5 millions tudents are enrolled at 109 of the State’s community colleges. More than 270,000 enrolled are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and 58,000 are FilAm students. The number of FilAm community college students is more than double the number enrolled at a California State University and/or University of California system, according to Delloro.
Prop. 92 is a $300 million ballot initiative introduced last year that would increase funding for school districts and community college districts to be calculated separately, lower student fees to $15 a unit in the next school year, and limits future fee increases.
The much-disputed ballot has two of the largest California teachers union pitted against one another. The California Teachers Association opposes, while the California Federation of Teachers support the ballot initiative.
Opponents of Prop. 92 said that this is not the time to increase state funds. The State is already facing a huge budget deficit estimated at $14 billion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier in the year has proposed a $4.5 billion cut in education. If passed, Prop. 92 would increase state spending on K–12 and community college education to about $300 million per year.
“The fact is that Proposition 92 is a deeply flawed measure that will cause more problems than it claims to solve,” said officials of the Californians for Fair Education Funding (CFEF).
“Prop. 92 will cost California nearly a billion dollars in the first three years, but includes no way to pay for this new spending. In addition, Prop. 92 will drain $70 million per year from the state budget in reduced fee revenues. To come up with the funds for Prop. 92, the legislature will have to cut other programs like health care, public safety, and public educationn or raise taxes,” according to CFEF.
Critics also pointed out that California community colleges rank last nationwide in tuition fees and would take away funds allocated for K-12 public education.
However, Prop. 92 advocates disagree.
Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization Judu Chu said that Prop. 92 would not raise taxes or take away from K-12 education.
“It’s about stability,” said Chu. “The whole point is that tuition in California is changing rapidly.”
Chu cited the 2004 tuition hike as an example. When the State increased the cost of tuition in community college from $11 to $26 a unit, Chu said that more than 305,000 fewer students enrolled the following year. The state eventually compromised to $20 a unit.
Chu said that society would be a victim if Prop. 92 will not be passed.
“Our society won’t have the necessary trained workforce to sustain our economy,” she said.
President of Asian Pacific Probation Association Hans Liang said that attending community college benefited him personally. Like many others, Liang chose to attend a community college to save money before enrolling at a four-year university.
“The community college helped me achieve my educational goals,” said Liang.
He said that in addition to preparing low-income students for a four-year university, it also supplies a good workforce.
“Half of the trained Registered Nurses (RN) in California were trained through a community college,” he said. “Because community colleges have fire technology classes, many fire fighters started out in community colleges. Over 160,000 apprenticeship classes are offered by attending community colleges.”
“Finance and money should not be an issue when it comes to education,” added Ted Cha, also of the Asian Pacific Probation Association.
(Yes on 92: http://www.prop92yes.com. No on 92: http://www.noprop92.org.)