State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig clashed sharply with the UC Board of Regents on Thursday over possible changes in school funding.
Over Honig’s “strenuous” objection, a regents committee unanimously passed a motion endorsing changes in state spending that would ensure funding for the growth of the University of California.
Such changes would probably affect Proposition 98, the measure passed by voters in November that guarantees about 40% of the state’s general fund to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and community colleges. The UC and Cal State systems say such guarantees will mean cuts in their own funds.
Honig, who is an ex-officio regent, urged the board to support changes only in the 9-year-old Gann Amendment, which limits increases in state spending to inflation and population growth. Working to change Proposition 98 “puts you on a direct opposing path” with the lower-division schools, he said.
“I don’t see why this university has to be involved in any attempt to change it,” Honig said.
Honig’s comments upset many of the regents and UC President David P. Gardner.
“It’s hard for me to imagine how this language (motion), which is as soft as can be imagined, can be construed as an attack on K-12,” Gardner said. “I don’t think it’s fair to draw that from this very modest statement.”
The motion endorses, “in principle,” changes in the state Constitution and spending that would allow UC “to meet its long-range planning goals, to maintain the distinction of its programs and to continue providing access to qualified students.”
William Baker, UC’s vice president for budget, said the university needs annual budget increases of about 9%, although 7% seems likely if Proposition 98 and the Gann limit are left untouched.
“We could certainly not grow to currently projected enrollment levels at the existing campuses, much less consider developing new ones,” he stated.
UC, which now has nine campuses, hopes to build as many as three others by 2005.
The motion approved by the regents Finance Committee is expected to pass the full board today. It breaks a longstanding UC tradition of trying to avoid political disputes over issues outside the university.
State legislators and influential lobbying groups are working on proposals to modify both the Gann limit and Proposition 98. Baker said legislators urged him to ask the regents to get involved.
“Many are convinced that the university could help carry the vote for an acceptable compromise. . . ,” he said.