EL CAJON - With the gover-nor's decision Monday to partially restore community college dollars vetoed last July, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District will now have the $940,000 needed to develop preliminary plans for science and technology buildings for its two colleges.
In what's being hailed as a partial victory for the college district, the governor this week restored $32 million of the $98 million originally cut for maintenance and instructional equipment statewide and also, the full $14.9 million in bond funds for 34 construction projects at community colleges across California. Among those new capital outlay projects are the Grossmont College Science Building and the Cuyamaca College Science Technology Mall.
"We are excited to receive the first funding toward a new science building at each college," said Chancellor Omero Suarez. "Both buildings are critical to meet increasing needs for science and technology education. Our students will reap the benefits."
The specific amounts of funds restored for maintenance and instructional equipment are not yet known, but given the soft economy, district officials say they appreciate even a partial restoration of funds.
"This is good news for students," said Gary Kendrick, district governing board president. "The maintenance funds will help provide a safer environment."
While Suarez labeled the monies restored "inadequate" but "quite welcome," he was quick to credit faculty, staff, students and the community for their role in the unprecedented budget-restoration campaign that resulted from the July vetoes.
"The actions of our faculty, staff and students in urging legislators and the governor to restore all of the vetoed funding made a major difference," he said in a thank-you letter sent today districtwide. "Students kept up the drumbeat with their rallies. Thousands signed the e-mail petition. Community members added their voices. It was all enormously effective."
After the state budget signed by the governor in July revealed a total $126 million in funding cuts to community colleges, a maelstrom of protest quickly ensued over what administrators and others described as the disproportionate share of the vetoes imposed on community colleges - almost a quarter of the total cuts made to the state spending plan.
Already one of the lowest-funded districts in the state, the vetoes meant a loss of $2.7 million to the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District alone, and about $11 million total to the county's five districts - funds that had been routinely granted by the state for a number of years for maintenance projects and instructional supplies.
In a show of strength that took many pundits by surprise, community college leaders up and down the state launched a dogged publicity campaign, enlisting the support of columnists, editorial writers and state legislators, among others. The culmination of the months-long effort was Senate Bill 735, which called for the restoration of $98 million of the July vetoes and which also sought to reverse Davis' veto of $14.9 million for dozens of capital outlay projects.
At Grossmont College, the reversal translates into $543,000 for preliminary plans for a new science building, which would provide badly needed lab space. At Cuyamaca College, it means $397,000 for preliminary plans for a science and technology mall, which would ease the campus' current dilemma of having only three science labs for nearly 8,000 students.