Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a former California State Senator and Assemblyman, and Levine is a former U.S. Congressman and State Assemblyman.
California has a severe shortage of teachers and one of the reasons we aren’t producing more instructors is the failure to adequately fund the California State University system—the primary pipeline for training members of the teaching profession.
Numbers tell the story. This state ranks last in the country in teacher to student ratios. We are 100,000 teachers short of what it would take just to get up to the national average. And it will take another 106,000 teachers over the next ten years to simply keep up current staffing levels. A survey of California school districts found that 75% are experiencing teacher shortages. Obviously, we are going to have to bring more trained teachers into the system and that is where CSU comes in.
CSU prepares more California teachers than all other institutions combined and nearly 8 percent of the nation’s teachers overall. The Cal State system is our best source of K-12 teachers and the key to improving the performance of our schools. One of the reasons California pool of qualified teachers in not large enough is the State’s chronic underfunding of CSU and the University of California.
In recent years, the Legislature has begun to restore higher education funding, but while CSU is finally receiving State Budget allocations equivalent to pre-Recession levels, the system is now serving 20,000 more students. Per student State support for CSU remains 25 percent below what it was 40 years ago.
Like UC, CSU has tightened its belt considerably. The cost to the CSU system per degree has been reduced by a third. Cal State has also increased tuition and fees to help make up for the short-fall in State funding, although there haven’t been any tuition hikes for the past five years. Now, CSU is proposing a modest increase in tuition that would amount to $270 for undergraduates. This increase will only be necessary if the State Budget comes up short in funding the Cal State system. The Budget proposal unveiled by Governor Jerry Brown was at least $167 million below what is needed for CSU.
Obviously, decision-makers in Sacramento have to weigh budgetary priorities, but our higher education system should be a no-brainer. Not only do we need more teachers, but the state’s workforce is in need of an additional million college graduates over the next decade. With adequate funding, Cal State can graduate an additional 500,000 students over the next ten years.
Under California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, CSU, UC, and our community colleges have comprised the finest public higher education system in the world and spearheaded the state’s tremendous economic growth and its emergence as a global scientific, technological and cultural powerhouse. There is no good reason for CSU and the other systems to be asked to continue running on fumes.
Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a former California State Senator and Assemblyman, and Levine is a former U.S. Congressman and State Assemblyman. Please visit yestohighered.org