Will parents protest education cutbacks?: The organizational deficit

Sandy Banks, is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the parent of two daughters studying in the California State University system.  She’s frustrated that it’s costing her so much more to help her kids out, and angry that they’re getting less for their money–and hers.    After expressing relief that one daughter found an affordable apartment, she turns to write about a somewhat bigger problem:

Her tuition will jump again — by about $600 — this fall. That’s the fourth tuition increase imposed by Cal State University trustees since 2009.

That hikes fees and tuition for classes to more than $6,000 a year, about $2,000 more than we expected when my youngest daughter enrolled as a freshman two years ago.

That’s double trouble for me. Her sister is a senior at Cal State Northridge, so our family is on the hook this year for $4,000 more than I budgeted back when an education in the Cal State system seemed like such a great idea.

That’s the personal toll of a public tragedy. State financing for higher education has been rolled back to levels unseen in years. This year’s budget cuts funding by 20%. That translates to $650 million less, and that has to be covered by somebody.

Banks notes that the tuition hikes have been accompanied by real cuts in offerings on campus.  It’s harder for a student to get the courses she needs to graduate; professors and teaching assistants are responsible for more students; and there is a general decline in the environments on campus.

She wants to know why the parents who are, more or less, helping their kids pay for school, aren’t outraged and active.  Parents of college students at the state university, and even parents of K-12 students, know that the marginal savings they’re getting on state taxes don’t come close to covering the increased costs they’re subjected to in trying to educate their children.  They are outraged, or as Banks says, angry and frustrated.

They aren’t active because they aren’t organized.  At the K-12 level, PTAs are incensed, but avowedly non-political.  In well-organized communities, they’ve redoubled their fundraising efforts, trying to compensate for a taxation system that has become less and less fair.  They’ve left it to the teachers unions to do the political work, and their success has been, uh, limited.

At the university level, student governments and campus-based organizations have fought the budget cuts and tuition hikes, but have vented most of their rage, so far, at the administrators who are playing crappy cards, rather than the state legislators who have dealt them.

For the parents of university students, the picture is somewhat bleaker.  But parents, who are also tax payers, are alone and unorganized.  They may write or call their state legislators who, negotiating term limits and the 2/3 tax rule, are themselves overwhelmed.  They won’t respond effectively until pressed to do so.

And the parents won’t press until someone invests the same energy in organizing them that conservative interests have spent in organizing tax payers.  Effective protest and political action isn’t a spontaneous reaction to a threat, but the result of strategic investments.  They need to learn from the people who put them in this position.

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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2 Responses to Will parents protest education cutbacks?: The organizational deficit

  1. Milan Moravec says:

    University of California Chancellor Birgeneau displaces qualified for public university education californians with $50,000 Foreign students. How’s dem apples?

    Birgeneau picks pockets of Democrats and Republicans. UC shouldn’t come to the Governor or public for support. (The author has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at UC Berkeley (Cal) where he observed the culture & way senior management work)

    University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) has forgotten that he is a public servant, steward of the public money, not overseer of his own fiefdom. These are not isolated examples: recruits (uses California tax $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians from public university education; spends $7,000,000 + for consultants to do his & many vice chancellors jobs (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same 0 cost); pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; in procuring a $3,000,000 consulting firm he failed to receive proposals from other firms; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010; tuition to Return on Investment drops below top 10; QS academic ranking falls below top 10; only 50 attend Birgeneau all employees meeting; visits down 20%; NCAA places basketball program on probation, absence institutional control.

    It’s all shameful. There is no justification for such violations by a steward of the public trust. Absolutely none.

    Birgeneau’s violations continue. Governor Brown, UC Board of Regents Chair Lansing must do a better job of vigorously enforcing stringent oversight than has been done in the past over Chancellor Birgeneau who uses the campus as his fiefdom.

  2. Milan Moravec says:

    University of California picks the pockets of Californians clean. University of California (UC) tuition, fee increases are an insult. Californians face mortgage defaults, 12% unemployment, pay reductions, loss of unemployment benefits. No layoff or wage reductions for UC Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, Faculty during greatest recession of modern times.
    There is no good reason to raise tuition, fees when wage concessions are available. UC wages must reflect California’s ability to pay, not what others are paid. If wages better elsewhere, chancellors, vice chancellors, tenured, non tenured faculty, UCOP apply for the positions. If wages determine commitment to UC Berkeley, leave for better paying position. The sky above the 10 campuses will not fall.
    Pitch in for all Democrats, Republicans UC
    No furloughs. UCOP 18% reduction salaries & $50 million cut.
    Chancellors’ Vice-Chancellors’, 18% cut. Tenured faculty 15% trim.
    Non-Tenured, 10% reduction. Academic Senate, Council remove 100% costs salaries.
    It is especially galling to continue to generously compensate chancellors, vice-chancellors, faculty while Californians are making financial sacrifices and faculty, chancellor, vice-chancellor turnover is one of the lowest of public universities.
    The message that President Yudof, UC Board of Regent Chair Lansing, UC Berkeley Birgeneau are sending is that they have more concern for generously paid chancellors, faculty. The few at the top need to get a grip on economic reality and fairness.
    The California Legislature needs a Bill to oversee higher education salaries, tuition.

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