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LEGISLATION WOULD AID CANYONS.

Byline: CONNIE LLANOS Staff Writer

VALENCIA -- Four bills -- one that would grant College of the Canyons more money per student -- await the governor's signature, college officials said Tuesday.

One of the key measures, Senate Bill 361, has been approved by the Legislature to close a historical funding gap that has meant less state money for the Valencia campus.

``I have been working on equalization for 19 years,'' college President Dianne Van Hook said.

Equalization is the term applied to evening out funding for California schools since the landmark Proposition 13 took effect in 1979. That voter-approved measure limited the ability of local boards to increase taxes, and the state took control of the funding. Schools and colleges kept their per-student funding rates, and College of the Canyons at the time was lower than most California schools. Nearly three decades later, the system hasn't changed, yet the college -- one of the fastest growing in the state -- has to meet the same academic standards.

``To have a certain expectation for all, without equal funding, is intrinsically wrong,'' state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, said Tuesday at a press conference at the college to discuss the legislation.

Although money has been allotted for equalizing school budgets statewide -- in the 2004-05 budget $80 million and in the '05-06 budget $30 million -- SB 361 seeks to end the debate inequity by allotting $159 million to equalization.

Three years ago, community college funding ranged from $3,540 per student to $5,481 -- Canyons' per-student total was $3,721. College of the Canyons ranks 54th of 72 colleges in terms of funding.

If SB 361 passes, its per-student funding would increase to $4,367.

``What we've done with 361 is finally provide an answer and get the issue off the table,'' Runner said. ``It's an important part of fairness.''

Other measures awaiting the governor's approval seek to speed up the building process for community colleges, and increase access for high school students who want to take college classes.

One bill would allow community colleges to adhere to the uniform building code and another would allow them to use capital funds to buy privately owned or government buildings.

The measure would make it easier to acquire new facilities and put community colleges on equal footing with four-year colleges and universities, which don't face the same, more stringent construction standards.

``If we can find a building already wired, plumbed, and in the area we need to do business in, why shouldn't we be able to buy it?'' Van Hook said.

Currently the college can buy existing buildings, but must use money budgeted for programs, not for capital expenditures.

Another piece of legislation, this one sponsored by College of the Canyons, would eliminate the 5 percent cap on high school enrollment in college summer school classes -- even when those classes aren't full. The cap is limiting students who are driven, Van Hook said.

``Nothing breeds success like success,'' she said.

connie.llanos(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 13, 2006
Words:496
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