The Santa Monica Community College District could lose $4 million under a new equalization funding formula proposed in January.
The district received word from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that the district will get less equalization funds than had been expected.
Equalization funds are extra funds given by the state to ensure that underfunded community college districts do not fall through the cracks of a complicated state funding formula that allows some districts to receive much more funding than other districts.
Currently, equalization funding is divided among community college districts based on a funding formula that factors in student enrollment and growth of the community college district.
This equalization funding formula was changed in January and two community college districts in Kern County and Los Angeles were added to a group of 52 of the “most underfunded” districts.
The Santa Monica Community College District and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in El Cajon were dropped from the group of 52 and are no longer considered “most underfunded.”
“For the past two years, we have been fighting for equalization and it has been for the majority of 52 districts,” said Santa Monica College trustee Margaret Qui“ones. “It is not an accident that Santa Monica and Grossmont-Cuyamaca — the districts that championed and initiated the equalization movement in the state — are the two targeted for the biggest cuts.”
Qui“ones was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a member of the Board of Governors, the state board that oversees community college districts.
She said the Board of Governors has not seen the new equalization funding formula.
Initially, the state’s adopted budget did not include funds that the governor had requested, she said.
The governor requested the community colleges funding so that he could “set the direction and set it in the right way,” Qui“ones said. “The Board of Governors thought that the equalization issue had been panned out, then modified figures were passed out on the distribution of equalization funds.”
Nancy Greenstein, Santa Monica College trustees board chair, said the district was expecting to get millions under the previous equalization funding formula and may now only receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for the 2005-2006 school year.
“This is a great disparity,” Greenstein said. “In the previous scenario, we would have had $4 million. In the current scenario, the model brings us between $400,000 to $900,000.”
The new equalization funding formula was designed to help other community college districts that have not been getting enough equalization funds.
Districts in Kern County and Los Angeles have experienced growth at a more rapid pace than Santa Monica and Grossmont-Cuyamaca.
“The other two districts in Kern and Los Angeles worked very hard to get their growth up and they can do that in those areas,” Qui“ones said. “We didn’t because of our density issues and other things going on.”
She said the Board of Governors cannot change a decision that the Chancellor’s Office made.
“The decision was not made by the Board of Governors and I can’t do anything about this because it is out of my hands,” Qui“ones said.
She encouraged the Santa Monica Community College District administration, faculty, and staff to organize a campaign for more equalization funds.
“The board of trustees and the staff have the challenge of having to fight for an equal share of equalization funds,” Qui“ones said. “The cards are still on the table.”