In his final State of the State address this morning, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state “can no longer afford to cut higher education,” and proposed a constitutional amendment ensuring that more state funding will go to universities than to prisons.
Currently, eleven percent of California’s state spending goes to its prison system, while only seven and a half percent goes to public colleges and universities. Schwarzenegger pledged to send the state legislature “a constitutional amendment so that never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education.”
Schwarzenegger didn’t specify what form that amendment would take, but according to a report in the Sacramento Bee, it would set spending on public higher ed at a minimum of ten percent of the state budget, and funding for prisons at a maximum of seven percent.
More to come…
Update | As @spamfriedrice notes on Twitter, Schwarzenegger is looking to cut prison funding through privatization, not reducing the prison population. Lots of angles to this story, and I’ll have much more to say soon.
Second Update | The New York Times quotes Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff as calling last semester’s student protests “the tipping point” that led the governor to head off what the Times calls a looming “dismantling of the most famous public university system in the nation.”
The political ground in California just shifted dramatically, and students shifted it.
Thursday Update | There’s a lot that remains to be unpacked about Schwarzenegger’s new position on prisons vs education. Whether a lame-duck governor has any chance of pushing this kind of a constitutional amendment through is an obvious question, as is the exact nature of his prison proposal. But one thing is clear.
California’s spending on UC and Cal State currently stands at 7.5% of the state budget. Schwarzenegger has now said that he opposes any further cuts to that funding, and that he’ll fight for a constitutional amendment that would raise it to 10%. That would be a one-third increase — a bump of 33% — and it would, as Schwarzenegger noted yesterday, restore the state’s public higher ed funding to levels last seen thirty years ago.
The Republican governor of the largest state in the union — the home of the country’s most prestigious university system — has said that it’s time to make public higher education public again.
Second Thursday Update | I’ve taken a look at the details of the Schwarzenegger proposal in a new post.