About Education . . .


After his first two years of attention to K-12, we had hoped that Governor Davis would turn his attention to the community colleges. And his January budget was an indicator that he would do just that. It was a great start; the best we've ever had: an increase of $228.8 million, or 8.1% in state general funds alone. But shortly thereafter, the state's energy crisis hit. All other issues have been eclipsed in Sacramento as the Governor and the Legislature have scrambled to respond. We are being told it appears unlikely that we will receive augmentations beyond the initial budget in the Governor's May revision. Our hope is to hold onto the Governor's original allocation, and work together to press for whatever more might be possible.

The issue of chronic underfunding of the community colleges is unlikely to be addressed by incremental budget gains in the annual budget process-certainly, not during a major energy crisis. But the underfunding of our system is a public policy and a social justice issue of great urgency that must continually be raised, at every opportunity and in every venue. Our students are worth, and deserve, the same public investment currently being made in education of students at UC and CSU. As Hoke Simpson's article in this publication illuminates, the California Master Plan for Higher Education spelled out a vision of universal access that is an essential statement of democratic principle and opportunity. Unfortunately, that declaration has not been matched by equitable funding.

The new discussions on the Master Plan represent a real opportunity for us to make our case. The intent of the Committee to produce a Plan that encompasses K-12 through higher education is ambitious, and may make the project unwieldy, though most all would agree that attention should be paid to the entire spectrum of education, and the full developmental cycle of our students. There is danger though that the Committee's focus on K-12 could lead to pressures for higher education to conform to current K-12 reforms, without adequate discussion of the advisability of these reforms. In particular, the state's preoccupation with high stakes testing spells trouble for the community colleges, as the inevitable surge in high school dropouts begins to show up. Every state where high stakes testing has been implemented has experienced an increase in the dropout rate. Those students will eventually come to the community colleges for a second chance.

The Joint Committee for the Master Plan for Education has been conducting hearings over the last several months. Representatives of the Academic Senate have testified at most of the hearings, either through invited testimony or public comment. We will continue to participate in the process. The Academic Senates of UC and CSU have also participated, and through the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates we are working together to monitor and impact the developments.

At the hearing entitled "Defining a High Quality Education for all Students" the Joint Committee focused on assessments of "knowledge and skills sets" that are to be measured in "consolidated assessments." The accompanying briefing paper prepared by Committee staff focused heavily on testing and quantitative measures as a proxy for "quality." What follows is the testimony I provided for the hearing. It responded to the material in the briefing paper. And, of course, my remarks to the Committee were of necessity briefer, but drew from the accompanying text. You will no doubt recognize the central themes of our work together.