The Santa Monica Community College District board of trustees is looking ahead to one election a couple of weeks away and another election two years away.
With the Tuesday, November 7th, election approaching, the trustees declared the week of October 17th to October 23rd Voter Registration Week.
“We hope that all students, staff and faculty register to vote and vote,” said trustees chair Nancy Greenstein. “It’s very important.”
The college district is working with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), a nonpartisan organization that educates students on the political process and encourages students to vote.
“We are working with Associated Students [the student council] and a number of volunteers to plan some events on campus,” said CALPIRG representative Sam Voorhies.
CALPIRG and Associated Students set up a voter registration table on the Santa Monica College campus and encouraged professors to allow students to fill out voter registration forms in class.
Voorhies said Santa Monica College students are also trying to bring a local candidate forum to campus.
“Politicians don’t campaign much to students,” Voorhies said. “We are hoping to engage them [politicians] in this dialogue.”
CALPIRG has received grant funding to work with students.
The board of trustees also approved a resolution in support of Proposition 1D, The Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006.
Proposition 1D is a general obligation bond that would enable the $10.4 billion Public Education Facilities Bond Act.
If voters statewide approve the ballot measure, $7.3 billion will be allocated for public elementary, middle and high schools and $3.1 billion for public colleges and universities.
Community colleges would receive $1.5 billion out of the $3.1 billion higher education allocation.
“California’s K-12 schools, community colleges and public universities face tremendous needs in classroom construction, restoration and earthquake retrofitting,” the trustees wrote in their resolution.
“The total unmet facilities needs for the community college system have been estimated at approximately $18.1 billion to fund needed new facilities and upgrade existing buildings to meet enrollment growth and provide students access to new technologies,” the trustees wrote.
More than 2.4 million students are enrolled in California’s public higher education systems, which include University of California and California State University campuses as well as community colleges.
The Santa Monica Community College District would use Proposition 1D funds to build a new student services building.
Trustees voted to support the ballot measure and encourage students and the public to become aware of its pros and cons.
For the June 2008 primary election, the statewide Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) is gathering signatures from voters to place the Community College Governance, Funding Stabilization, and Student Fee Reduction Act on the ballot.
The initiative, as currently proposed, would:
n establish the bilaterally governed community college system in the California Constitution so that effective leadership of the 109-college system is provided;
n provide local community colleges with a secure and stable source of funds that is calculated by community college enrollment growth so that the annual competition between grade schools and community colleges for Proposition 98 funding ceases;
n prevent the imminent threat of capped community college enrollments and a decline in real funding per student;
n retain a separate state funding mechanism for grade schools so that funding for primary and secondary education is not threatened;
n provide legislative flexibility in times of state fiscal emergency; and
n not raise taxes.
Faculty associations from community college districts throughout the state have spearheaded campaigns to establish teams in each local district to qualify the initiative for the June 2008 ballot.
To get ballot placement, 598,000 valid signatures need to be collected by January 22nd.
Four trustees voted for a resolution in support of the initiative and approved a college district signature-gathering campaign.
Trustees Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, Margaret Qui“ones and Herbert Roney abstained.
“The Board of Governors has not taken a position and probably will not take a position,” Qui“ones said. “There is a different statewide effort.
“Everything that has to do with funding involves give and take. I don’t want to do anything that would conflict with equalization.”
The Board of Governors is the state board that oversees community college districts. The governor appoints its members.
Qui“ones is a Board of Governors member and was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.
Equalization is the state’s attempt to bring equity in the funding that community college districts receive per student.
Before equalization, community college districts received unequal funding because of the unequal rate at which property owners in different districts were willing to be taxed.
And with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which limits property tax increases and the ability of local governments to raise taxes, the funding inequalities among poor and wealthy community college districts are locked in place.
Equalization now allocates from the state budget extra funding for underfunded community college districts.
Trustee Carole Currey voted for the resolution in support of the initiative with reservations.
“There are a lot of ramifications we have to consider,” Currey said. “I support this resolution, but I’m not sure the finan- cial ins and outs would be in the best interest of community colleges when the initiative rolls around.”
Dennis Frisch, the Santa Monica Community College District representative for the FACCC, said student fees could be reduced to $15 per unit if the initiative is approved.
Student fees are currently $26 per unit and are scheduled for reduction by the state to $20 per unit in January.
Frisch asked the trustees and college district administrators to help support local FACCC efforts to collect enough valid signatures and efforts to raise funds for a proper signature-gathering campaign.
“There are a number of things about this initiative that are important to the faculty, administration, board of trustees and students,” Frisch said.
“FACCC volunteers looked at each college district’s finances, faculty and students and came up with a dollar figure for each district to contribute to the campaign.”
Santa Monica’s share is $50,000, to be collected from the district as a whole, which includes faculty, students and administrators.
The district as a whole has so far contributed $1,000. The Santa Monica College Faculty Association contributed $2,500.
Los Rios Community College District in Northern California has contributed more than $70,000, Frisch said.
“Dennis is correct in our need to step up our share of contributions to make this a success,” said college district president Chui L. Tsang. “There is some urgency because we need to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.”
Tsang will discuss the initiative with college district stakeholders to help the local faculty association establish a decent signature-gathering campaign.
Gathering signatures is a process regulated by the state. Gatherers and student volunteers would need to undergo training on how to collect signatures, Greenstein said.
Some of those regulations require that gatherers sign an affidavit acknowledging that they verified signatures as being valid and identify themselves, if asked, as volunteers or paid to collect the signatures.