Voters pick and choose higher education measures

Posted 6:20 p.m. Nov. 10

by Carolyn Polinsky
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–Fifteen states voted on referendums relating to higher education during last Tuesday’s elections which will allow for a variety of new measures affecting colleges and universities to take place across the country. The changes range from additional funding for educational facilities in Alaska to a stricter system in place for governing Florida’s public universities.

Most of the initiatives that passed last week will benefit students by allowing for a greater amount of money from taxes and bonds to be used toward higher education.

In California, over $13 billion from bonds will go toward the construction and renovation of educational facilities, with over $1.5 billion going toward college campuses. If a 2004 referendum that calls for an additional $ 2.3 billion in bonds passes in the state, the measures would be the largest bond package in the history of higher education.

Citizens of Alaska voted in favor of a similar act last week, permitting over $200 million in bonds to pay for the design and construction of educational and museum facilities.

In Virginia, citizens approved a law that had been endorsed by the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office that will allow the state to sell up to $900.5 million in bonds to pay for capital projects at public colleges, museums, and other educational facilities

Voters opted to get rid of state spending limits on a sales-tax revenue relating to education in Arizona. They voted against two propositions that would have allowed for American Indians to operate more casinos on the condition that they put some of the increased income toward student scholarships.

In Idaho, American Indians will be required to put five percent of their gaming income toward educational facilities, including colleges, near reservations

In Florida, a measure was passed that requires that the class sizes of primary and secondary schools not exceed certain levels. Some fear that the additional funding needed to realize this goal will take away from funding for public colleges. Also, a statewide governing board of 17 members will be instituted to coordinate local governing boards for each of the state’s public colleges. Each board will be made up of 13 members, including a student and faculty member.

Democrats led a drive to replace a similar system that had been abolished by Governor Jeb Bush two years ago. The new board will have more power than the old one and the aim is for it to foster cooperation among state schools so that they can compete on a national level instead of against one another.

A Louisiana amendment that would have allowed public colleges to put up to 50 percent of their endowments or other funds in stocks failed.

In a victory for those attending Michigan colleges, a measure failed that would have allowed for 90 percent of the money from tobacco settlements to go toward nonprofit hospitals and other health-related programs. Currently, 75 percent of those funds go toward merit-based college scholarships.

In New Mexico, up to $100 million from bonds will be used for public school and college facilities. The State Constitution was also amended so that veterans who have lived in the state for at least 10 years will be eligible for a veterans’ scholarship program as opposed to having lived in the state at the time they entered the armed services.

Some states are hoping that the pursuit of luck will allow for the pursuit of higher education. Voters determined a lottery can be established in Tennessee, with proceeds going toward helping students attending colleges within the state. North Dakota will enter a multi-state lottery, with proceeds benefiting the state, but voters rejected a measure allowing the Bank of North Dakota to partially pay back some student loans.

In Utah an initiative failed to put stricter controls and taxes, which mostly would have gone toward education, on the disposal and storage of radioactive waste.

Several measures are incomplete, including an Oregon one that would have allowed for bonds to pay for the earthquake protection of schools. In Missouri, a proposition that would have placed more taxes on tobacco products, to be used in life sciences research, is also incomplete as of yet.

A Hawaiian measure is incomplete that would allow bonds that are now in use for funding nonprofit, private elementary and secondary schools to also be used for universities and colleges.

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