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Assembly Speaker Perez, Carter Hold Education Summit

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Participants urged legislators to extend taxes

Speaker of the California Assembly John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), Assembly Assistant Majority Policy Leader Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) and Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee held a summit on budget impacts on public education this past Tuesday at Carter High School in Rialto.

Local educators Dr. Albert Karnig, President of California State University, San Bernardino, Chancellor Tim White, University of California, Riverside and Bruce Baron, Chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College District participated in a panel that included Carter, Blumenfield and Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod. Parents and advocates were invited to offer public comment.

Discussions focused on how local schools and colleges managed under the massive budget cuts over the last five years and how local schools will be impacted going forward without revenue extensions.

Karnig, White and Baron all agreed that the impact on their institutions would be devastating faculty layoffs and reduced class offerings that would affect enrollment and reduce access to higher education for California students.

Speaker Perez told the summit that a lack of action by Republican legislators means a June election on revenue extensions is no longer an option, he is calling upon his Republican colleagues to produce a comprehensive budget plan of their own by the end of this month. The Democratic budget plan provides $12.5 billion in cuts and $12 billion in revenue extensions to limit impacts of cuts on education. The revenue extensions require California voters to vote for or against the measures.

"We are competing with Missippi to be dead last in education," said two panel members.

Assembly Member Carter says, “I am the product of local schools and also of the local school board, so I know firsthand how important quality education is to the families in our community and to families across our state. I have faith that if the people of this state make clear the kind of opportunity and futures they want for the children of California then we will have no trouble working together and finding enough Republican legislators to join Democrats in supporting a balanced approach to solving the state’s budget problems.”

Al Karnig, stated: "Our area not only has high unemployment, it has the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in America. From 1998 to 2010 we have the same budget, that was when there was an enrollment of 18,000, now the enrollment is 50,000. There has been a 240 percent increase in student fees and now access will be denied to an additional 40,000 students at CSUSB.

San Bernardino Community College District Interim Chancellor Bruce Baron stated: “Our system is vital to the state’s fiscal stability. Cuts have come at a time when community colleges are in greatest demand. I believe students deserve the opportunity to come to us to get a degree, job training or to take the classes they need to transfer to a four-year univeristy. For many of the students we serve, especially the unemployed seeking new job skills, community colleges give them a chance to get their lives back on track. Higher education should not be looked at as a cost it should be an investment.”

Martha Flour, President California School Boards Association, Board member of Newport/Mesa Unified School District said, "We have been expected to do more with less now we are doing less with less the result being entire futures being lost."

Greg Washington, V.P. Association of California State Students Association and local graduate, stated: "We have to sacrifice because the quality of education has changed. We have to pay more so we should have higher quality."

The audience who spoke in large numbers said everyone needs to hear the message that the tax extension is very important.

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