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January 7, 2010

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about linking education and prison funding

As detailed in this local report, which is headlined "Educators intrigued by proposal to link college, prison spending," a key part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's state-of-the-state address focused on the relationship between state funding of education and prisons.  Here are the basics:

University leaders on Wednesday lauded Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to shift state money from prisons to higher education, but some experts warned the proposal is just bad budgeting.

In his State of the State address, Schwarzenegger proposed a constitutional amendment that would guarantee at least 10 percent of the California budget for the University of California and California State University systems, gradually scaling back prison funding to reach that number.  Both university systems have raised student fees more than 30 percent in the past year while limiting access because of deep budget cuts.

About 7.5 percent of the state general fund is now devoted to the universities, the governor said, far less than the 13.4 percent they received in 1967.  Almost 11 percent of the state's $90 billion budget is dedicated to prisons, Schwarzenegger said.  Data from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office show slightly different figures: 9.6 percent for prisons and 5.9 percent for universities.

Education leaders -- and even some critics -- called the plan to shore up the suffering schools "bold" and "visionary."  But some said the proposal would be another sign of the state's bad habit of tying its hands when it comes to the budget.

UPDATE:  I just found this one-page release from Gov. Schwarzenegger's office which is titled "Reshaping Our Priorities To Shift Funding From Prisons To Universities." It starts with this quote from the Governor's state of the state speech:

Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future.  What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns?  It simply is not healthy.  I will submit to you a constitutional amendment so that never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education.

I am eager to give the Terminator lots of credit for his focus and rhetoric on these matters, though I fear that it is coming a day late and lots of dollars short.  Excessive and poorly coordinated spending on prisons has been a major problem for the entirety of Gov. Schwarzenegger's time in office, but only now during his last year in office is he talking the talk --- and perhaps only now because he is forced to start walking the walk due to a looming prison-reduction court order looming and on-going protests about cuts in higher education funding.

January 7, 2010 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


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You miss the punch behind Gov. Schwarzenegger's speech and quotable portions by merely limning a newspaper article. His fearless pronouncements are what's lacking in this Administration. He's an Asian carp vs. the White House limpet.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Jan 7, 2010 10:23:37 AM

Just what California needs, another slice of the budget pie that can't be touched. How long until 200% of the budget is spoken for before the legislature even starts determining the new allocations?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jan 7, 2010 11:35:26 AM

I look at his proposal without rose-tinted glasses. If you think this proposal would change sentencing issues in California, IMHO, you can think again. I believe he's attempting to lessen the power of the prison guard's union in a two-fold move.

First, tie prison spending to higher education spending through a state constitutional amendment. Of course folks would rather spend money to educate their citizens. You can already see that with the state's populace already constitutionally dedicating x-percentage of its budget to K-12 spending each year.

Second, when pay & benefit costs consume so large a portion of the prison's budget, now capped by constitutional amendment, the choices come down to 1) compensation cuts, 2) contracting out prison services from state to private, or 3) prisoner release.

The third option is not politically appealing, even though, IMHO, we continue to waste money by incarcerating too many non-violent offenders. The other two options strike directly at the prison guards and their union.

My 2 cents.

Posted by: Old Soldier | Jan 7, 2010 3:07:24 PM

It is interesting to link this numbers with a study on the amount illegals who are students, 307,000 as of 1994, and total illegals in California, being 2,209,000 in 2000. How to does reflect these budgetary allocations in your opinion?

Posted by: Researcher | Jan 8, 2010 1:13:47 AM

The governor's plan aims to bring back the days when the state funneled more money into University of California and California State University classrooms than into its prisons. It has been at least five years since that has been the case. It comes at a time when tuitions are soaring and course offerings are being cut.

Posted by: psp akku | Jan 8, 2010 4:50:51 AM

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