California Turnaround?

A major concern at this blog, both now and under my predecessor, has been the decrepit state of higher education in California. Thanks largely to Proposition 13, 1978 a ballot initiative that required a two-thirds vote in the legislature to pass any tax increases, the state has incredible trouble raising money, forcing huge cuts in funding for the state’s public colleges and universities, and resulting in semi-regular tuition hikes.

This, according to California State University Chancellor Charles Reed, meant that California’s public higher education system,

once the envy of the world, is struggling. To survive in a way that continues to fulfill its mission, we need to break the mold on how it operates.

State budget cuts have stripped our universities to the bone. And the promise of nearly free, accessible higher education has all but disappeared as cuts have forced tuition increases. What was once a rite of passage for all qualified young people is increasingly becoming untenable for many prospective students.

That might be ending. With the election in California earlier this week, the Golden State might finally be able to get out of the tax policy hole it dug back during the Carter administration. According to a piece by Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones:

State voters passed Proposition 30, a ballot measure that raises sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy in order to prevent $6 billion in cuts to schools and services. And even more surprisingly, voters apparently have elected a Democratic supermajority to the state Senate and Assembly for the first time in many years, finally giving Democrats the ability to overhaul the Golden State’s tarnished tax code.

These changes don’t automatically result in more generous funding for the state’s higher education system, (and declining state funds for higher education are a nation trend; it’s been going on for years in states without structural barriers to tax increases) at least there’s now a path forward.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer