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Web Letter

Laila Lalami's article and one of the posted comments accurately describe the declining state support of California's higher education system. The voters' message to the governor and legislature in the May 19 special election was, "Solve the problems we elected you to fix." Voters rejected taking away funds targeted toward mental health and children's healthcare. It's a two-thirds requirement to pass a budget that is driving this state into financial chaos.

Students have experienced fee increases seven of the past eight years, and the share of the state's budget devoted to higher education continues on a downward slide. To reverse this trend, majority leader Alberto Torrico is working with students and faculty in support of AB 656, a bill to levy a tax on oil companies, who enjoyed record profits last year, and direct the funds to higher ed. A recent Public Policy Institute of California study says the state will face a shortfall of one million graduates by 2025.

There is no better long-term investment than education. It's what made California's economy the largest in the country.

Jeff Barbosa

Davis, CA

Jun 19 2009 - 4:28pm

Web Letter

I wish Laila Lalami had made clear the California's public universities include the California State University system--the one that educates California's necessary but often overlooked infrastructure. Our campuses don't produce the same percentage of Nobel winners and computer czars as the UC, but we do educate the rank and file of the California economy's workers, including nurses and the bulk of California's teachers. It is essential to the stability, recovery and growth of the California economy that the CSU budget not be gutted yet again.

Both of the letter-writers thus far--neither of whom actually live in California--subscribe to the myth that California's public universities gobble up and and waste oversized budget handouts. The truth of the matter is that the universities have been forced to educate more and more students even as the amount the state pays per student has dropped. The UC and CSU systems have faced regular and often substantive budget cuts since the 1980s. But both Californians and the nation at large cling to their myths of greedy, profligate educators and the idea that anyone, really, could teach.

The new myth says that the recent defeat of a round of budget propositions means that Californians don't want any tax increases. That's a Republican myth that serves Republican ends. I haven't voted for any propositions in years because I don't believe in the proposition system. It has made a mockery of the idea of representative government and resulted in a legislature that neither can nor knows how to govern. Not to mention that the recent propositions were ridiculous: what does "securing the lottery" mean, and where would all the lottery money designated for education then go? A crucial budget fix is one that won't go into effect for two years?

California needs to stop making education its scapegoat and start investing in its future.

Beth Wightman

Los Angeles, CA

Jun 16 2009 - 3:52pm

Web Letter

Prof. Lalami is typical of those isolated academics who think their budgets are sacred. California is a bloated, sinking ship of excessive taxation, big government, inflated spending and entrenched public employee unions. "Education" is one of the many overweight items that needs cutting. I'm sure the world could survive if the professor's "creative writing" was axed. For all that vaunted talk about California's university system, it sure didn't seem to matter much that in the midst of those smarts, the state is now a Third World, failed entity.

Charles Jackson

Atlanta, GA

Jun 16 2009 - 2:15am

Web Letter

While I agreed with just about everything in this article, it was deeply disappointing. We got a great list of the failures of previous attempts to raise taxes.

This does not deal with the current situation at all. The voters have spoken overwhelmingly, and that approach is more than slightly dead.

The question that must be addresed is that, if this is not the right place to make those cuts, then where?

Make some suggestions to the California legislature! Tell them some better places to make the needed corrections!

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Jun 15 2009 - 11:13pm