Staring down the barrel of Proposition 30



In the aftermath of Proposition 30, the ASUC cannot rest on its laurels. Education was held hostage by California lawmakers in the sights of a gun whose trigger would have been pulled if the proposition failed. Though the success of the proposition means that the trigger has remained locked, it does not mean that the fingers resting on it have relinquished their position.

The state of the 10 UC campuses without Prop. 30 would have been grim. Tuition would have likely increased by an estimated 20 percent, sending shock waves through the UC system. $375 million would be cut over the next two fiscal years. Faculty would be laid off. Classes would be slashed. Inevitably, the UC system would fall to all-time lows in world rankings, and the value of a UC Berkeley degree would sink.

But let it not be forgotten — this could still happen tomorrow.

As a central body on campus, the ASUC has power in numbers, funding and an organizational structure to make sure the reality of a world without Prop. 30 doesn’t come to be even after its passing. The proposition’s success allowed the university to avoid automatic triggers of financial destruction, but now that the proposition has passed, there’s no safeguard to prevent these same cuts and tuition hikes two or three semesters from now.

As of this moment, the ASUC has done exactly what state legislators wanted. Sacramento desired that the tax pass to secure its budget, and the ASUC helped it pass. So how do we explain to those governing the Golden State that although we listened this time, they can’t just use education as a pawn to pass a tax? How do we urge them to cut from prisons and not from the university?

The external affairs vice president’s office should go out on Sproul now in order to generate an effective lobby for education. It should make sure that every time lawmakers want to pass a tax via ballot measure, they do not leverage the state’s higher education.

Lobbying takes time and organization, and, frankly, the miniscule number of people trying to re-establish Occupy Cal will not a make the difference on this front. Some of those involved in the movement may make noise by breaking into buildings and perching on Wheeler Hall, but the Occupy Cal movement has lost political credibility and clout with the average student.

The ASUC must assume the baton. Last spring, our student government had a turnout rate close to that of Americans in the 2012 general election. No other organization on campus rivals the ASUC as a representative body of UC Berkeley students.

This should be the mission of External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi for the rest of the year. It’s been a while since the mainstream Berkeley community felt empowered in the fight for education — dare I say it, since 2009. Rallying the troops in an election year is easy, but it tends to put us in a defensive position. This is the time to become proactive so that next time, a Prop. 30 scenario doesn’t even exist in the first place. We need a concert like Rock the Vote not just before an election, but also before regents’ meetings. Our state must realize that investing in education is investing in the economy of California.

The ASUC Senate must join in as well. Endorsing or opposing a proposition through a senate bill is easy but frankly does not do much. Senators should pass bills on budget cuts, and they should lament the fact that Sacramento leveraged education to pass Prop. 30. However, even that piece of paper is close to meaningless and barely constitutes progress. Similarly, any letter that the executives send to Sacramento will do little more than give material for a politician to make a paper airplane.

The senators have much more power through their leadership roles in various communities than they do through any external legislation via the senate. Senators will spend around 30 minutes during meetings to discuss whether or not they should pass a bill that maybe 50 people will read. But senators should really be using this time to hold private conversations and meetings to garner true support for higher education, as well as travel to Sacramento in order to bring students together in this fight. This is as good a time as any to fund some fliers.

The ASUC has enormous strength. This strength was seen in the success of the ASUC Vote Coalition, the achievement of Measure R, the opposition to Measure S and the passage of Prop. 30. But these campaigns had successful student support because of the people that the ASUC mobilized — not because of the legislation it passed.

The political position of the ASUC Senate impresses few. Thousands of students rallying on campus and in Sacramento impresses everyone. The ASUC needs to use its actual strengths in order to stave off budget cuts rather than use the faux strength of a student government’s reputation.

Contact Noah Ickowitz at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @noahickowitz.

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  • I_h8_disqus

    I liked your column, Noah, but I don’t agree with the last part. Thousands of students rallying on campus will not be effective in the long term. It worked once, but we need the ASUC to develop strong positive relationships with the legislature instead of a relationship just built on protest. The groups that get the most money from the legislature are the ones who lobby well with the legislature, provide them money, and provide them with votes in elections. As long as unions continue to support the legislature with money and votes, the legislature will provide funds to their causes. We need the ASUC to start working with the legislature like the unions. Unfortunately, the ASUC does not have access to the large amounts of money that they unions have, so the ASUC will need to be a bit more creative. We also need students to vote in a way that would support education. Students were not in favor of education cuts that the legislature threatened, but they still voted for those same legislators. Students helped to give the California legislature a super majority, but we may have also given the legislature enough power to cut more from education.

  • earlrichards

    A public watchdog organization is needed to oversee the disbursement of Prop 30 funds to ensure that all of the Prop 30 funds are spent on education, does not go to Wall Street, does not go into the pockets of the Regents and does not go into the general fund and from there to who knows where. The Governor of California cannot be trusted with Prop 30 funds., because Brown’s sister works for Goldman Sachs and Brown is on the Board of Regents. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs seem to be the major “vampire quid” in the swaps scam.

  • iPosit

    They should:

    1) Find sources of transparent budgets available to the public in past years

    2) Find trends in this information and then make the case that, in this current fiscal year, the situation is similar enough to warrant:

    3) A reallocation of a particular set of funding that is either unnecessary or counter-productive or

    4) A set of funding is that outdated or illegitimately drawn from money voted on to be used for a particular reason, technically allowed to be use in the fund its found in, and then reallocated back to its voter mandate

    5) Explain that this money would be better spent on education in general, and make a good case why it is higher education that should be preferred as opposed to outright funding the general pot of education

    6) Take the information gleaned at instances of lobbying like this and threaten to publicly disseminate this heavily researched but incredibly narrow set of budget improprieties and shame them

    Because what else can the EAVP Office do other than try to do the job of the State Legislature for them?

    We could also shame them publicly and immediately. The whole point of Proposition 30 was that a budget cut was written into next year’s budget and the UC reacted to it by saying it will necessitate as 20% increase in our tuition, all in the case of a failed Prop 30. Even without having a real plan of finding funding for our schools instead of prisons, we should be able to say “how is it that this can still happen when you just got 6 billion more dollars a year and our budget deficit has shrunk from 19 billion to 1.9 billion over 2 years”

    Or maybe someone can just answer that for me. Why would tuition go up in a world where Prop 30 passed?

    • Question

      If you voted for Prop. 30, do you now regret doing so?

      • iPosit

        Regents be shady.

    • I_h8_disqus

      Tuition would go up, because (1) Prop. 30 money is not supposed to go to the UC. (2) because the regents pass a budget that increases spending for the UC without having revenue to cover it. Like they just did yesterday.

      • iPosit

        Prop 30 money goes to a pool that pays state employees as well as schools. Prisons are getting an increase in funding because they were given extra prisoners on the county level without additional funds. It is almost impossible to write a bill that says “Money for Prison Safety,” so they bamboozle us with this save our school shtick. In any case, Prop 34 weakened the 3 strikes law and is likely to release a lot of people who were otherwise going to be in jail their whole life. This means more money can return to that same pool and may have a chance of going to the UC. So it isn’t that it’s supposed to go elsewhere, but that it can (and often does) go elsewhere.

        Did you see those signs that say Cal spend 1 million every day in Alumni donations. I mean I’m sure a few companies here and there may drop a million on Cal, but I don’t know if we have that many donors to stay up on 365m a year. I think if the UC increased spending then they’ll probably institute something like Operational Excellence Part 2 where they lay off more staff and fuck with pensions. I really don’t think (and am very much hoping) that tuition won’t go up, but it is sad that I’m playing to a personal interest at the expense of the jobs and livelihoods of others.

        But hey, what’s politics?

        • I_h8_disqus

          I think most students feel bad about benefiting at the expense of others losing their jobs. However, students are usually making a lot less money than full time employees, and should not be the source of more funds to pay for those salaries and benefits. This is a battle for the regents, bureaucrats, politicians, administrators, and unions who actually created the mess. The students should not be penalized for the screw ups of others.

  • Calipenguin

    Democrats always take the votes of students for granted, while Republicans tend to treat student votes as a lost cause. Lobbying legislators is unproductive because the unions and ethnic grievance lobbyists have far more resources and always get first dibs on tax revenue. Instead, the ASUC and UCSA should threaten to lead massive student revolts against any legislator, even moderate Democrats with impeccable voting records, who dare to threaten California’s public universities and colleges again. Let the legislators know that we have a trigger finger too.