Gov. Brown vetoes agency to oversee higher education

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Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday his decision to veto a bill, SB 42, that would have established a new agency to oversee all higher education in the state.

The bill would have created an Office of Higher Education Performance and Accountability, or OHEPA, to advise the governor and legislature on goals for higher education, and an advisory board to review the performance of this office. SB 42 passed the Senate and the Assembly in early September.

The office would have served as a replacement for the California Postsecondary Education Commission, or CPEC, which was the state’s independent agency for higher education policy planning, research and analysis for 40 years prior to its defunding in 2011.

Supporters of the bill hoped that rebooting the agency with modifications would give the higher education system leadership and guidance as well as improved research and analysis capabilities at the state level. The OHEPA would have been independent of other higher education entities but would have been required to seek input from and consult with an advisory board and higher education segments.

Brown cited concerns that adding another office to oversee higher education would be unnecessary.

“While there is much work to be done to improve higher education, I am not convinced we need a new office and an advisory board, especially of the kind this bill proposes, to get the job done,” Brown wrote in a veto message to the Senate.

Robert Oakes, spokesperson for state Senator Carol Liu, said that although Liu was disappointed by the veto, the process has at least furthered discussion about the oversight of higher education.

Lande Ajose, executive director of California Competes, the project of a charitable organization supporting the bill, hoped the OHEPA would, among other improvements, better coordinate students transferring between community colleges and the university.

“Each board speaks to what happens within each organization, but none of them think about what the state needs overall,” said Ajose.

In a letter to Gov. Brown prior to his announcement, the university expressed its concern that the bill’s proposed functions “may not be the most effective response” to its goals of greater research and coordination. The state can already commission studies and collect data as needed, according to the letter.

David Morse, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, supported the bill’s goal of increased data collection to monitor higher education activities across the state. He felt, however, that responsibilities offered to the OHEPA would be better handled by colleges at the local level.

Additionally, he expressed concern that the body charged with these oversight abilities would lack sufficient representation from “segments of higher education.”

“We’re very pleased that the governor chose not to sign this particular bill,” Morse said.

Contact Michelle Leung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @michellesleung.