Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D—Orange County) introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 27 (ACA 27), which checks the power of the University of California (UC) Regents and the UC President. The legislation would require greater transparency and openness in setting salaries, and how the UC system spends money.

“California taxpayers, and university families, have had enough of a bloated, autocratic UC system that is out-of-control, and unaccountable to anyone,” said Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva. “We need to send a message demanding transparency, and accountability, in our publicly-funded university finances, especially as the regents consider yet another tuition increase.”

“Given their veil of financial secrecy and extravagant spending, I immediately call on the UC Regents to halt discussion of a tuition increase until the public has a better understanding of the UC system’s financial standing,” said Quirk-Silva.

ACA 27 would limit the length of regents’ terms from 12 years to four, would prohibit compensation that exceeds $200,000 per year unless approved in a public hearing, would require the Office of the UC President to submit a yearly report on expenditures, and would limit the position of the UC President to be a non-voting member of the board. Quirk-Silva is joined by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D—Sacramento), and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D—San Francisco) in authoring this proposed change to the California Constitution.

“ACA 27 declares an end to the era of appointing deep-pocket insiders to comfortable, quasi-lifetime terms,” said Quirk-Silva, noting that most regents are multi-millionaires who do not identify with the struggles of everyday Californians. “Instead, let us hold these people accountable to parents, students and taxpayers.”

“California students and families deserve to know that state funds are being spent on UC students, and not on government bureaucracy,” said McCarty. “Savings found at the nearly $800 million UC Administration budget means more monies to enroll qualified California students and minimizes the need to hike tuition fees. Increasing public trust through transparency and accountability of UC is critical to the success of the institution.”

“While the UC system has made progress in implementing some financial reforms, we need to take additional steps to ensure the problems don’t resurface and that funding is concentrated on students,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D—San Francisco). “ACA 27 ends secret reserve funds, keeps spending in check and promotes accountability. When enacted, University of California will be an even greater public institution.”

ACA 27 also removes the UC president from the board of regents. In April 2017 a State Audit of the University of California, Office of the President, found that the Office of the President had “amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on system wide initiatives.”

In May, the UC Regents will be meeting on whether to raise tuition, and the student services fee, for state residents by 2.7%, an increase of $342 to a total of $12,972 for the 2018-19 academic year.

ACA 27 will be heard next in the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

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