Gov. Brown line-item vetoes online education funding from state budget

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When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget Thursday, he vetoed provisions that he proposed in January for online courses in the higher-education item that would have mandated that the University of California spend $10 million on online course development.

In striking specific provisions in the 2013 Budget Act, Brown still allocated the $10 million to the university, in addition to $10 million to the CSU system, but without restricting how the money should be spent. This line-item veto was one of the few changes the governor made to the budget.

The earmark that Brown originally proposed in January for online courses aimed to focus the university’s spending on prioritizing more affordable, accessible online course development.

But the provisions were met with strong opposition from higher-education officials who were concerned with the lack of flexibility the earmarks would impose. UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein said Brown’s decision to veto the provisions is beneficial to the university.

“It’s a win-win,” Klein said. “We still get the money, and we will still put it toward online education, but (Brown) got rid of the restrictive language.”

However, there is some concern that without the $10 million earmarked, decision-makers will not follow through in spending the money on improving the university’s online education system. Dean Florez, a former California state senator and president of the higher-education advocacy foundation 20 Million Minds, said the provisions served as important guidelines for ensuring the funds for online education were spent accordingly.

“Without that language, they are saying, ‘Hey, we hope you do your best,’ versus holding the UC accountable,” Florez said. “Either they will spend more money than the $10 million on really revamping online education, or they will essentially put it on the back burner.”

However, Brown says he redlined certain provisions to avoid imposing cost pressures on the university, according to the summary of the budget released Thursday.

“Eliminating these earmarks will give the University greater flexibility to manage its resources to meet its obligations, operate its instructional programs more effectively, and avoid tuition and fee increases,” Brown said.

According to H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance, the veto of the earmark provisions does not detract from the commitment made to online education.

“Even with the veto, we still fully anticipate that UC will make additional strides towards online education,” Palmer said. “The governor concluded it would be best to get rid of the earmarks in order to allow the UC more flexibility.”

Contact Stephanie Petrillo at [email protected].