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January 07, 2010 6:23 PM Hasta la vista, Reason

By Daniel Luzer

Arnold.jpg

According to a piece on Southern California Public Radio, apparently California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to spend more on higher education. Or he wants the state to spend more than it currently spends on prisons:

It’s a cliche state lawmakers love to apply in their railings against cuts to education, and Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t resist using it again in his final state of the state address.
“Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons” Schwarzenegger said. “Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and only 7 1/2 percent goes to higher education. Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future.”
Schwarzenegger wants a constitutional amendment to prevent California lawmakers from ever spending more on prisons than on higher education.

The California constitution already has more than 500 amendments; one scholar once called it “a document that was the perfect example of what a constitution ought not to be.” Constitutional amendments are notoriously easy to enact and have long been the source of knee-jerk-style bad policy in the Golden State.

Under Schwarzenegger’s proposal, California would be required to spend at least 10 percent of its budget on higher education and less than 7 percent of the budget on prisons. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, University of California President Mark Yudof called the amendment idea “a bold and visionary plan that represents a fundamental restoration of the values and priorities that have made California great.”

“Bold and visionary.” Really? Actually this plan is terrible. It’s good for neither California’s colleges nor its prisons to have the funding for one depend on the funding of another. The state spends inefficiently on both education and corrections; it solves nothing for the state to connect them. Spend what it costs to get a program to work; the price of an effective prison has nothing to do with the cost of a good college.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer