As a graduate of Barstow College and also as a former instructor on that campus, I know better than most the importance of the community college system in California.

For some students the community college is a stepping stone to a four-year degree. For others it offers associate's degrees or certificates that benefit them in their jobs and careers.

Often without the availability of the offerings that the community college provides, which includes evening and online classes, many students would be unable to take advantage of a higher education program at all, particularly those students that need to work full time.

In most instances I am in favor of initiatives that would improve the community college system and be beneficial to those students. But when I looked at Proposition 92, which appears on the Feb. 5 California ballot, I came to the conclusion that it is a bad idea for California.

According to the Official Voter Information Guide, taxpayers back in 1988 passed Proposition 98, which requires a "minimal level of funding" for elementary schools, secondary schools, and community colleges. What is really strange regarding Proposition 92 is that community college funding would not even consider real enrollment numbers from the community colleges. Proposition 92 would revise the constitutional formula for school funding by including a growth factor figured separately on a rather confusing calculation based on which is greater - the 17 to 21 age group growth rate or the 22 to 25 age group growth rate.

Furthermore, additional funding is added if there is a 5 percent unemployment rate. State funding for community colleges should be based on real numbers of students who actually attend classes, and many of those students are well into their 30s and 40s.

The major problem with Proposition 92 is where this new source of revenue is going to come from. Steve Boilard, director of higher education for the state legislative analyst, is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The proposition would spend an additional $300 million per year (roughly), but provides no new source of revenue." That is nearly $1 billion dollars over the next three years. The University of California and California State University systems aren't blind to what could happen to funding in higher education and both have gone on record as opposing Proposition 92.

Was anyone listening to Governor Schwarzenegger on Jan. 10 when he declared a fiscal emergency for the state because the budget has a projected $14.5 billion deficit? The Golden State is broke! His speech, which appears on his official website, also states, "I propose to reduce spending by implementing a 10 percent across-the-board reduction to nearly every General Fund program, and to have those reductions take effect on March 1st." How can Proposition 92 be justified under this gloomy financial outlook?

Supporters of Proposition 92 point out that community college fees would be dropped from $20 a unit to $15. On the surface that looks good, but that would result in a loss of funds, "potentially about $70 million annually," as stated in the Official Voter Information Guide. I attended community college back when it was free, but those days are long gone. California Community College fees are a bargain if compared to fees in other states. For example, the fee at North Seattle Community College is $73.90 per unit and $116 per unit at New York's Hudson Valley Community College, according to their websites.

Another interesting fact is that California's low-income community college students have much of their education paid for. According to the March 2007 Hewlett Foundation's report "California Community Colleges: Making Them Stronger and More Affordable," "52 percent of full-time community college students (nearly 29 percent of all community college students) have their fees waived due to financial need." Poor students do not need Proposition 92.

And then there is the increase in more bureaucracy. Proposition 92 would make major changes in the community college system's Board of Governors through amending the state constitution. Voting members would increase from 16 to 19 through state governor appointments. The Board of Governors would be given "full power," according to the Official Voter Information Guide, in spending millions of taxpayer's dollars. However, the Board of Governors will be accountable to no one. What guarantee is there that moneys will be spent to benefit community college students?

Every major California newspaper - The Los Angles Times, The Orange County Register, The Sacramento Bee, and The San Francisco Chronicle - regardless if liberal or conservative, has come out against Proposition 92. Even the California Teachers Association in their political mailing is telling its membership that Proposition 92 is flawed and to vote no because if passed "it could mean funding cuts to K-12, CSU, and UC schools, as well as other vital state programs." Proposition 92 is a bad idea for California.

ABOUT THE WRITER Carol Jensen is a long-time Barstow resident, graduating from Kennedy High School and Barstow College, where she was an English instructor for many years. Much of her time now is spent writing political and social commentary. She may be contacted at cajensen49@msn.com.