Issuing the first veto of a state budget in California’s history, Gov. Jerry Brown’s rejection of the proposed state budget Thursday underscores the continuing threat that cuts pose to public education. The spending plan included $150 million in additional cuts to the University of California and the California State University systems — which would have been absolutely devastating to the already struggling public education system.
The university is an economic engine for the state, and if legislators continue to lower funding, California will inevitably hurt economically. Ground breaking research and entrepreneurship are fostered by all of the university campuses, and with a dismal unemployment rate and an under-performing business sector, California cannot afford to stifle the potential of students who receive an education at the world’s best public university.
We believe that the issue of funding should be taken to the voters: legislators must let Brown’s proposed tax extensions become a ballot initiative. The extensions — which for five years will include the increases in income taxes, sales taxes and vehicle license fees originally enacted in February 2009 — deserve greater consideration, particularly because it is estimated by a state Legislative Analyst’s Office report that they will bring in $14 billion in revenue.
Because the potential for more cuts to education is real if new sources of revenue are not found, the stakes are extremely high, and if there was ever a time for student advocacy, then it is now.
Throughout the crisis one voice has been noticeably lacking — that of ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman, who is interning with the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. We are baffled by his decision to do so when students entrusted him to represent them and their interests at this crucial time for the campus and the university.
In a statement to The Daily Californian, Freeman said that he is currently lobbying national officials regarding cuts to the federal Pell Grant.
Though the Pell Grant is important, we doubt that his time and energy would remain focused on the interests of students while he serves the U.S. Senate. But more importantly, he should have recognized that crucial decisions strongly affecting public education would be made at this time at the state level as our elected officials finalize the budget.
Freeman must understand that it is impossible to advocate on behalf of the students he represents from the sidelines. He has the job title; now it’s time he assumes the responsibility. The governor’s veto provides Freeman a second chance to fulfill the duties of his office. He must take it.