Student leaders criticize Gov. Jerry Brown’s higher education policies

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Student leaders from California’s public higher education systems sent an open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday which criticized him for failing to directly communicate with students about legislation that will impact future education funding.

Frustrated by tuition increases and cuts to the state’s higher education budget, the presidents of the UC Student Association, California State Student Association and Student Senate for California Community Colleges called for Brown to involve students in negotiations to increase funding for higher education.

“When you were elected in 2010, many students hoped that your election would usher in a new era for public higher education in California and reverse the approach taken by your predecessor,” the letter reads. “Thus far, things have not improved, and in fact, in many ways they have worsened.”

The letter was sent the day after Brown’s Wednesday announcement that he had reached a compromise with the Restoring California Coalition to revise his proposed tax initiative.

The new version of the initiative would increase the proposed tax on Californians in the highest annual income bracket — $500,000 for singles and $1 million for couples — by 3 percentage points instead of 2 points as Brown had previously proposed. It would also only increase state sales tax by a quarter of a percentage instead of a half a percentage point.

The letter points out that the revision of the proposed initiative — which was negotiated between Brown and the coalition of the California Federation of Teachers, California Calls, the Courage Campaign and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment — did not involve consultation with students.

“The previous version of your tax initiative would not have restored any of the $1.5 billion you cut from higher education last year, and its failure would result in an additional $200 million cut to UC and CSU,” the letter states. “This is not the sort of visionary thinking that students are looking to you for in order to restore the greatness of our system of higher education in California.”

Despite efforts by students from all three of the state’s public higher education systems to engage in dialogue with lawmakers — students lobbied legislators March 5 for increased higher education funding as thousands protested outside of the state Capitol building — Brown’s office has failed to reach out to students directly for input in such negotiations, the letter states.

“Students from the three segments have not been involved in any negotiations that your office is having with representatives from our administrations,” the letter states. “We find it problematic that these critical discussions, which may result in a ‘compact’ that includes repeated fee increases in future years, are taking place without input from the very students these decisions are going to affect.”

Read the full text of the letter below.


Amruta Trivedi is the lead academics and administration reporter.