Senator Mark Leno
Sacramento, CA 94248-0001
Dear Senator Leno,
I write to express my concern about the current state of public education in California, and in particular about the crisis at the University of California, Berkeley, where I am a professor.
On a purely personal level, the furloughs at UC that begin on September 1, 2009 and will last for a year will result in my pay being cut by 8% for the year. As chair of a department, I am all too conscious of the amount of pain and anxiety the furlough plan will be causing to my co-workers, staff and faculty alike. Many of us will see a serious reduction in our quality of life. There are those of us who will simply no longer be able to make ends meet.
The University of California at Berkeley is one of the most renowned universities in the world. It cannot continue to be so with inadequate support from the state of California. What a tragedy it would be for the state to lose this amazing resource! At the current level of funding, it is not just the quality of life of the university’s diverse employees that has been diminished. (And there have been many employees laid off as well.) The educational experience available to our students is now also being impaired, as is the ability of the faculty to pursue research effectively. I urge you to work to see that state funding for the University of California becomes a high priority.
Everyone recognizes that the crisis at Berkeley and at the University of California more generally is part of a wider crisis affecting every level of public education in California and many other public services as well. Because of this, I also ask you to commit to working to reform the budget process in the state of California, and in particular to find responsible ways to generate more revenue, and a more stable stream of revenue, to support public education and other public services.
In particular, I would ask that you support and work towards:
--a sensible revision of Proposition 13 that would remove the requirement for a 2/3 majority to approve tax increases and that would rethink in a sensible way the way property tax levels are set, especially on commercial properties;
--a removal of the requirement for a 2/3 majority to pass the state budget;
--the generation of new revenues, for example through the creation of an oil severance tax and perhaps the reinstatement of the vehicle licensing fee;
--a serious rethinking of the corrections budget of the state and serious reform of sentencing requirements to help reduce the prison population;
--a rational reform of the proposition process, which provides only the most grotesque illusion of democratic participation.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.