Kathleen Brown
Community College Presidential Summit
August 30, 1994
Sacramento, CA


Thank you, Patrick. You and I were both lucky to have grown up in a time when California's public education system still delivered.

But as we all know, it's tougher today to be a student.

You're expected to pay more for college, and yet you receive less.

Fees have gone up from $5 to $13 per unit -- a 260 percent increase -- and Pete Wilson would like them to go up even more, to $30 per unit.

Class sizes have gone up, from an average of 28 to 32 students.

Yet in California's Community Colleges, 12,000 course sections have been cut as a result of recent budget cuts alone.

So yes, it's tough to be a college student in California today. The state budget is in ruins. The California Community Colleges budget has been on the chopping block year after year after year. And the job market looks bleak.

It's a challenge for community college students today to look to the future with enthusiasm and optimism.

Yet you do.

In talking with some of you here today, I have heard just how committed to you. You aren't whining. You aren't complaining. You're ready to complete college and make your own productive contribution to California society.

And you're willing to overcome obstacles and to rise to the challenges that face us as a state.


That's the spirit that built California.

And that's the spirit we need to restore the promise of a quality higher education system to California's middle-class families.

It's the spirit we need to retrain the aerospace worker who suddenly finds himself out of a job -- and seemingly out of a future.

It's the spirit we need to help the recent high school graduate who has the drive and the ambition -- but not the financial means -- to go straight into the UC or CSU system.

It's the spirit we need to give a more flexible education to hundreds of thousands of returning students who, because of family or job demands, don't fit onto the traditional four-year higher education track.

I was one of those students -- a vintage nontraditional student.

My best laid plans for a four-year college education were interrupted, in turns, by a marriage, the birth of my first child, my husband's law studies on the East Coast, the birth of a second child, and a return to the West Coast.

I took a college class here and a correspondence course there. It took me six-and-a-half years to get my undergraduate degree. And then it took another 14 years to get my law degree. There I was at age 40 -- the oldest member in the Fordham Law School class of 1985.

I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get a higher education. I also know how easy it would have been just to give up.

But there was someone in my life who said, "No way. You are going to go to college. You're going to finish and you're going to get a degree no matter what it takes."

That person was my father -- the son of a San Francisco shopkeeper who, despite his intelligence and qualifications, simply could not afford to go to college.

Instead he went to night law school, working during the day for a lawyer. I have to tell you, there's not a day in his life that he does not regret the college education he was denied.

My father was determined that his children, and all of California's children, has access to a quality education for lack of financial resources.

That was the motivating force behind his creation of the Master Plan for Higher Education ... a remarkable document that made a fundamental promise to California's middle class families.

The promise was that a higher education would be made available to all Californians with the motivation to obtain it.


Pete Wilson broke that promise to California's middle-class families.

Instead of meeting the challenges of explosive population growth, demographic shifts and record joblessness, the incumbent Governor has shortchanged the community college system with policies that have reduced class and course offerings.

Instead of fighting to keep our colleges affordable, the incumbent Governor is responsible for record tuition fee increases.

And instead of taking a stand to keep our colleges accessible, the incumbent Governor has presided over the introduction of administrative techniques like "enrollment management" and "downsizing" -- corporate turns of phrase that usually apply to bureaucratic overhead and waste, not to turning away the students of California's community colleges.

Wilson has declared war on California's families by declaring war on California's higher education system.

And it couldn't come at a worse time, just when we need higher education to help us meet the challenge of a changing global marketplace.

We must make our colleges more affordable for all Californians.

We must make our colleges more accessible so our workers will have the skills they need to hold high-wage jobs that produce value-added products.

And we must overhaul vocational education to train our workers for the jobs of tomorrow -- not the jobs of yesterday. We need more computer programmers, not more cosmetologists -- and we need to do it smartly, efficiently, and with greater coordination than we do today.

Our economic recovery is going to depend upon a higher education system that works. And while Pete Wilson may see you as part of the problem, I stand before you today and say: You are part of the solution.

But only if you have a Governor who will help you. Who will make colleges more affordable. Who will make colleges more accessible. Who will provide a strategy and a plan to revolutionize the way we train our workers.

And who will prove to all Californians that it really does matter who sits in the Governor's chair when it comes to restoring the promise of a quality higher education system to our middle-class families.


It matters because, as Governor, I will make it my mission to defend the principles of affordability and accessibility that have been under assault these last four years.

Now, I'd like to be able to tell you that I'll make higher education free again, like it was in my father's day.

But I can't. We live in a new era.

But that doesn't mean that the state's budget should be balanced for three straight years on the backs of California's institutions of higher learning.

For the last two years, I have proposed alternative budgets that would hold the line on cuts to California's community colleges, California State Universities, and University of California.

I pledge to you today that in the budget that I submit as Governor next January, I will maintain funding for California's colleges and universities and fight as hard as I can against any new fee increases.

Schools, students and middle-class families have shouldered too much of the pain from Pete Wilson's budgetary mismanagement. It's robbing our economic future -- and our children will be the ones who have to pay..

I also support legislation by Assemblyman Jack O'Connell that would give Community Colleges the same protections against property tax shortfalls that long have been extended to our K-12 system.

It's fair. It's reasonable. And it gives you the fiscal certainty you need to do the job we demand that you do.

If Pete Wilson vetoes this bill, send it back to me next year. I will sign it.


I pledge something else. I will support and sign legislation to eliminate the BA "differential fee" that requires students with bachelors degrees to pay an extra $50 per unit at California's community colleges.

Sixty thousand students have dropped out since Pete Wilson imposed these onerous fees.

Sixty thousand students have been deprived of the training they need for better jobs -- and their chance to become more productive California taxpayers.

Sixty thousand students have had Pete Wilson turn his back on them.

I will not turn my back on the stock clerk working two part-time jobs trying to gain the skills for a better, more stable future.

I will not turn my back on the college graduate who needs new training to go back to work and help pay the family's monthly bills.

And I will not turn my back on the tens of thousands of Californians who should be applauded -- not slapped down -- for having the drive and ambition to become current in new job trends and technology.

The differential fee will be repealed, and any future free increases will be held to no more than 10 percent.


I'll also expand access to financial aid for higher education.

For two years, I proposed a CalLoans Program that would leverage existing non-general fund dollars to provide up to $200 million in low interest loans for thousands of middle-class families.

For two years, Pete Wilson vetoed that bill. He said more financial aid wasn't necessary.

Pete Wilson is wrong.

While the rich can get loans from banks and the poor can get aid from a wide variety of state and federal programs, California's middle-class families are still getting squeezed.

New federal programs have helped, but California's middle-class need more.

They need my CalLoans Program, and when I am Governor I will sign it into law.


Job training is critical so the students of today can hold the jobs of tomorrow.

As Governor, I will create a California Job Training Program in all high schools to prepare students for the work of the 21st Century. It will give students an option to either prepare for a traditional higher education or to develop skills needed for the workplace.

It can only succeed in partnership with business and the community colleges, which have already set a standard for job training excellence. You have the skills and the expertise; we need you to share them so we can begin the process of job training at the high school level.

To get an even bigger bang for our job training bucks, I also propose we coordinate the thirteen different state agencies that administer 23 separate employment and training programs and spend more than $3 billion on vocational education.

I say we train that money and those programs like a laser on preparing our workers not only for the jobs that do exist but for those that must exist for California to become stronger and more competitive economically.


We must strive for that same efficiency throughout our entire higher education system.

UC, CSU, community colleges, and the K-12 system no longer can operate as separate fiefdoms. They must begin to see themselves as part of the same system -- a system to deliver the best quality education to the most students at the lowest cost.

That means using our high schools to provide more advanced placement and encouraging more students to take lower-division courses at our community colleges. But those credits must be transferable from system to system; if some classes aren't up to UC or CSU standards, then change them. We shouldn't be wasting precious class time or taxpayer dollars.

We also have to do more with technology. It certainly will never replace teachers, but it can be a valuable tool that, along with distance learning, can give more students access to the classes they need.

Finally, in this era of limited resources and greater public accountability, we have to return to some basics when it comes to compensation for university administration. As Clark Kerr has observed, something is wrong when a university president earns two times what a Nobel laureate earns.

It is my belief that compensation should be based on an academic model, not a corporate model. Therefore, I will fight to keep administrative salaries in line with faculty salaries -- not the salaries of corporate CEOs.


I look to the spirit of the Community Colleges to help me achieve these goals.

I'll match your spirit. Instead of sitting in the back row, passively waiting for the Legislature and educators to tell me what is possible, as Governor I'll be standing at the chalkboard while we figure it out together.

And I will draw on the best of two Democratic traditions that have helped guide California over the last half of this century -- traditions that just happen to be represented by California's last two Democratic governors, both guys with the last name of Brown.

The tradition of my father was to build and to invest. His view was that there wasn't any problem that California couldn't build itself out of. The results speak for themselves: Water, transportation and higher education systems that were the best in the nation.

My brother had a different view: He recognized there are limits on our natural and fiscal resources; he talked less about investments than about "sustainable economies." He drew instead on our people resources, with all its richness, talent and diversity.

I intend to integrate the best of both those philosophies. We must build and invest for the future, and we must do so with a recognition that there are limits both on our environment and to taxpayers' pocketbooks.

As Governor, I will challenge all Californians -- educators, our labor leaders, our workers, our business leaders, and our students -- to help redefine our higher education system.

I know you are ready. I know you've got the spirit and the drive.

All we need now is the leadership.

Thank you.


return to the main page

The material included in this voter guide is archived and will not be updated. Please visit the California Voter Foundation's homepage for the most current information and resources.

California Voter Foundation 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 & 1998