Meet And Greet a Mix of Praise And Politics
By Chris Levister
Newly arrived Cal State San Bernardino President Tomás Morales has wasted little time settling into the big shoes left by retired president Albert Karnig. Looking dapper in a black pinstriped suit Morales worked the crowd of more than 500 educators, elected officials and community leaders gathered at a welcome reception in his honor on Thursday night Sept 6.
He praised the adoring crowd calling them the “backbone” of an educated society. “It takes us all,” he said. Morales who most recently served as president of College of Staten Island in New York, said he’s committed to working with other educators in the region to improve high school graduation and college-going rates.
When a Fontana teacher questioned him about the budget challenges facing schools in California and the impact of more cuts if Prop. 30, a tax initiative designed to help schools, is voted down in November, the soft-spoken Morales sprung into action. As president, I can’t take a position on either Prop. 30 or Prop. 38, a separate tax initiative also designed to help public schools. But, I can work to educate students and the community about the issue,” he said.
“While other states are building up colleges and universities, we’ve seen a dismantling public education in California. California’s universities were once considered the gold standard. It’s time to recapture the luster. We’ve got to “turn up the fire”.” Paul Meckler, a Victorville parent and educator praised Morales for being willing to “run into the fire” at such a critical time for California’s public education system. Meckler asked Morales if he should vote for Prop 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s higher taxes. “What guarantees do we have that his proposal would stop the bleeding?” Morales responded, “I'm not supposed to tell you how to vote, but I'm going to push the envelope a little. I hope we are not faced with additional budget cuts.” Such cuts, he said, would make it even more difficult to “address the disparities we find in the Inland Empire.”
Addressing those disparities, he said, "is why I came to California. That's why I came to Cal State San Bernardino.
Prop. 30 is a measure backed by Gov. Brown that would raise $8 billion in annual revenue by increasing state sales tax by a quarter cent on the dollar and raising income tax rates on individuals making more than $250,000 and couples making over $500,000. If the initiative fails, Morales said, it will mean $8 million to $12 million in cuts for the San Bernardino campus coming on top of several years of reductions. The Cal State University system has endured annual budget cuts totaling nearly $1 billion since 2007-2008. During the reception many people asked questions about the tax measure, while others waited for an opportunity to mingle afterward. Several in the crowd said they didn't have a question to ask, they just wanted to welcome Morales to the university.
The free welcome reception was hosted by The Coalition of Inland Empire Latino Organizations (CIELO) and the Inland Empire Future Leaders program. Morales was appointed in May and is the first Latino to lead the campus, where 46 percent of students are Latino.
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