Brown Vetoes Requirement that UC and CSU Develop Online Courses

It was good news for educators in California when Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget last week that included a substantial increase in K-12 and public university funding that has spent several years suffering at the hands of the recession. But supporters of online education were disappointed after Brown used the line-item veto to strike a provision that called on the University of California to spend $10 million on online course development.

Stephanie Petrillo of The Daily Californian reports that the UC and the CSU systems are both still getting the money allocated via the 2013 Budget Act, but they’re no longer restricted on how they can spend it. Considering that opposition to online education runs strong among the faculty of both university systems, it’s possible that the money will be used for a different purpose.

Brown choosing to use his power to strike the earmark is surprising in light of the fact that he was the one who proposed it this January. At the time, the proposal generated feelings on both sides of the online education debate – although university officials and faculty were particularly vehement in their opposition. After the deletion of the earmark was made public, Dianne Klein, the spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President, praised Brown’s actions, saying that they would benefit the university in the long term.

“It’s a win-win,” Klein said. “We still get the money, and we will still put it toward online education, but (Brown) got rid of the restrictive language.”

However, there is some concern that without the $10 million earmarked, decision-makers will not follow through in spending the money on improving the university’s online education system. Dean Florez, a former California state senator and president of the higher-education advocacy foundation 20 Million Minds, said the provisions served as important guidelines for ensuring the funds for online education were spent accordingly.

According to Florez, the earmark was the only way to make sure that the money was being spent on improving UC’s and CSU’s online education offerings. However, Brown explained his decision by saying that the requirement that the money be spent in a particular fashion would have put too much financial pressure on the universities.

“Eliminating these earmarks will give the University greater flexibility to manage its resources to meet its obligations, operate its instructional programs more effectively, and avoid tuition and fee increases,” Brown said.

According to H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance, the veto of the earmark provisions does not detract from the commitment made to online education.