Despite a 7.2% overall increase in statewide funding for community colleges, California's two-year colleges got short shrift in Gov. Gray Davis' budget, Ventura County trustees say.
Board members complain that the funding package that Davis signed Tuesday denies the county's three colleges their rightful share of statewide funds and does not provide enough money for full-time teachers.
"Our students are being shortchanged. Our faculty are being shortchanged. The whole district is being shortchanged," board President Allan Jacobs said.
After tentatively approving the county district's $87.9-million budget this week, trustees ordered the chancellor to lobby Sacramento for more money.
Even if the district can scrounge up additional state funding, its budget for the upcoming school year still needs revision in light of Davis' vetoes, Deputy Chancellor Mike Gregoryk said.
"I don't know if we're looking at cuts. The problem is that we're not going to be able to serve all of the students that need to be served," he said. "We're not going to have money to do new and innovative programs."
Gregoryk criticized the Davis administration's 1999-2000 budget for decreasing funding for community colleges relative to the amount set aside for elementary and secondary schools.
"They're dumping all the money in K-12 and forgetting about the community colleges," he said.
Gregoryk and board members also bemoaned that the state's formula for calculating its per-student allocation places Ventura County and about a dozen other districts well below other districts. Past state budgets have provided extra money to make funding more equal, but the budget that Davis signed with great fanfare Tuesday does not provide for that.
"It's not right that we receive less money [per full-time student] than other districts do," Gregoryk said.
John Tallman, a Ventura County Community College District trustee, said Davis' line-item vetoes in his first budget went against the governor's campaign promise to make education his "first, second and third priorities."
"Perhaps he's not very knowledgeable about community colleges, I don't know. Perhaps he doesn't value them, I don't know," Tallman said. "Certainly, the Legislature was better to us than he was."
Indeed, programs proposed by lawmakers in Sacramento took a $19-million hit when they reached Davis' desk. More than half of that was to go to salaries for full-time faculty members.
About 40% of the professors at Ventura, Moorpark and Oxnard colleges are part-timers. Tallman said he would like that percentage to decrease so that teachers can be more available to their students.
"K-12 doesn't staff their classrooms with part-time teachers. They're funded with full-time teachers," he said.
Explaining his decision to veto the additional funding for full-time faculty, Davis said California's community colleges do not employ significantly more part-time instructors than colleges nationwide.
Davis also vetoed expansion of several programs that target specific types of students in the two-year college system, saying the goals of those programs would be sufficiently met by other programs that did receive funding.
"I'm disappointed that they didn't fund some of the special programs at an increased rate, because some of them have been very successful in helping special kinds of students, be they gifted students or under-prepared students," Tallman said.
Kyle Orr, spokesman for the California Community Colleges chancellor's office, called the system's new budget workable and said the state's 71 districts should be happy with the nearly $235 million in new funding they will receive.
Although a task force will soon examine the disparity that the state's funding formula creates among districts, Orr said the larger problem is that California's community college students receive $2,500 a year less than the national average.
Still, Orr said, the state chancellor's office is pleased that Davis and the Legislature chose to give $45 million more to Partnership for Excellence, which bases funding for California's 106 community colleges on transfer rates to four-year universities, work force training and other benchmarks.
And almost $117 million will help two-year colleges deal with the 3.5% growth in enrollment that they are predicting for the next year. Ventura County has 33,000 community college students; two-thirds of them attend full-time.
Although Davis has signed off on California's budget, Ventura County's community college board vowed that its battle for funding is not over. Trustees told Chancellor Philip Westin to lobby legislators to shift more than $3 million earmarked for one-time projects in specific college districts toward greater equality among the districts.
Gregoryk said the district has no problem urging the state to deny a Los Angeles college $50,000 for a baseball field and a district in Visalia $20,000 to fingerprint its staff.
"It's pork barrel," he said. "If we were talking about taking money away from their classrooms, it would be different."
Times Community News reporter Jennifer Hamm contributed to this story.