As the Legislature reconvenes amidst an economic crisis, education stakeholders gather to call for a "New Deal for Higher Education" from the Federal Government
The State Assembly began its work one hour ahead of schedule as Assemblymembers, Assemblymembers-Elect, faculty, and students gathered to announce the introduction of a House Resolution that calls for a bold recommitment to public higher education in the United States.
"Our current economic crisis has been called the worst since the Great Depression, and most experts fear that more bad news is forthcoming," said Portantino, Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. "Our country has a long history of providing grants and benefits under the G.I. Bill of Rights for veterans, including for my father. It is time to renew that pledge during this critical turning point in our history. A renewed call to invest in our students under a bold initiative would put California and the rest of the country back on the right economic track. This economic model worked in 1945 and it can work in 2009. An educated work force and new entrepreneurs will rejuvenate our economy for decades to come. I am hopeful that with the broad support this resolution enjoys at the onset, we will be able to help shape the dialogue as our new President and Congress debate how best to aid working families."
"The bank bailout revealed that we can afford to take dramatic action when the will to do so exists," said Lillian Taiz, CFA President and Professor of History. "Our plan challenges decision-makers to devote 10% of what they are spending on the banks to our college-aged kids and to the American people who need retraining for 21st century jobs."
The House Resolution, set to be introduced and numbered immediately after the 2009-2010 legislative session begins at 1 p.m. today, argues for increased federal aid in the form of grants, such as was done with the World War II G.I. Bill of Rights, as well as student loan forgiveness in exchange for public service. The resolution text argues that the budgetary neglect of public universities began six years ago with increased student fees and lower state support. Years of limited resources and souring economic conditions have culminated in a previously unfathomable situation: the California State University is threatening to cap student enrollment, an action no California public university has ever taken. Finally, the resolution makes note that, compared to the recent package that was approved to aid the floundering financial industry, the cost of such a program is relatively minor but would yield dividends as an investment in our "human infrastructure."
The Assembly rules allow a House Resolution to be acted on with relative haste, but still require the measure to pass muster with the appropriate committees. A House Resolution needs approval solely from the State Assembly.
Assemblymember Portantino was joined by Assemblymembers Sandre Swanson, Ira Ruskin, Jim Beall, and Assemblymember-Elect Joan Buchanan.