California State Assembly committees approved four bills supported by the California Faculty Association Tuesday.
The Judiciary Committee approved AB-21, which ensures that “institutions of higher education are safe spaces free of immigration and enforcement activities.” The bill will head to the assembly appropriations committee.
Introduced by Assembly member Ash Kalra, the bill also provides that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students will not lose financial aid if there are changes to DACA policy from what it was on Jan. 19.
The committee took testimony on AB-21, titled “Access to Higher Education for Every Student,” as well as three other bills supported by the California Faculty Association.
The Assembly Higher Education Committee also unanimously approved AB-393. The bill, authored by Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva, aims to freeze California State University tuition at what it was on Dec. 31, 2016.
The California State University Board of Trustees passed a tuition increase March 22.
“We are grateful to the trustees who voted against the fee increase, recognizing that yet another student fee increase is not a sustainable way to fund the CSU system,” said Jennifer Eagan, president of CFA, during the hearing. “We can’t keep going back to the students to fund the system.”
The trustees’ decision to raise tuition was met with widespread student protest.
During the hearing, CSU State Relations director Nichole Muñoz-Murillo said that while the board understands the state’s budget woes, there is no foreseeable funding to attract faculty and maintain academic support services.
“We need to ensure that the trustees have the tools necessary to maintain academic quality and ensure access and success for our students,” Muñoz-Murillo said. “Therefore, we regrettably oppose this bill.”
Assembly member Shirley Weber introduced AB-1464, which was also heard in the higher education committee Tuesday. It was approved by the committee with an 8-3 vote.
AB-1464 looks to increase tenure-track faculty by 75 percent by 2026 and seeks to hire 774 new positions in the 2018-19 academic year.
Assembly member Steven Choi expressed concerns about the financial ramifications of the bill and said the legislature is getting into too much “micromanaging.”
“I think we have to move forward. That we move forward with this bill, we move forward working with the CSU, we move forward looking at the plan and a long-term goal, rather than constantly running around here in a little circle because we don’t have anything,” Webber said.
Webber said that the legislature has to start working with the higher ed community and with the budget to meet these goals.
AB-1038, presented by Assembly member Rob Bonta, would create a Blue Ribbon Commission, which would work to make California universities more “affordable, accessible and equitable,” Bonta said. The bill was approved by the higher education committee Tuesday and will head to the appropriations committee.
“In many ways, today’s more diverse students are being cheated out of the education that they deserve,” said Kim Geron, CFA vice president, in his testimony on behalf of the bill. “This crisis is deeply systematic and it’s an issue that will require legislative action to increase access to college education.”
Each bill will be passed on to other committees for approval before they move on to the Senate.