Bipartisan talk discusses veterans’ tuitions

Bipartisan talk discusses veterans’ tuitions
Assemblymembers Rocky Chavez, left, and Sharon Quirk-Silva discuss the benefits of Assembly Bill 13, and explain that veterans cannot afford out of state tuition using the GI Bill at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Ian Brophy

OCEANSIDE — Assemblymembers Rocky Chavez-R and Sharon Quirk-Silva-D laid out a bipartisan plan to cut down on the $286 million California spends on unemployment insurance for veterans, at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. 

The meeting was held at MiraCosta College’s Oceanside campus and informed attendees about Assembly Bill 13. The bill would give all veterans who choose to go to school in California in-state tuition, which would make an education affordable for veteran’s using the GI bill.

“I would much rather use the money to invest in people’s education to get them to work, than to pay for them to be unemployed,” Chavez said. “When people have an education, then they have the ability to go off and get a job and fulfill the American dream the veterans fought for.”

Both Assemblymembers talked about the importance of bipartisanship for this bill to be successful. Chavez said the bill would never have gotten out of the Assembly if not for a bipartisan effort.

Assemblymember Quirk-Silva said veterans’ issues are not a republican or democrat issue, they are an American issue.

Students, college officials and community members were among the 14 attendees. George McNeil, a trustee at MiraCosta College, said he supports the bill and that it would positively affect the college.

“We will probably bring it up to the board in our August meeting to have formal support of (the bill),” said McNeil. “We owe the veterans, and the school benefits from having the veterans there.”

Chavez said the 76th district, which he represents, has more veterans than any other district in California. He added that many veterans born and raised in California become residents of other states while serving and are unable to come back and attend school due to the expensive out-of-state tuition.

Harmony Hodges, a MiraCosta student, said her brother faced the same dilemma after he could not afford to come back to school in California.

“He is actually at ASU now because he is a resident of Arizona, instead of coming to school here,” she said. “I think this bill would have helped him a lot.

The bill has passed through the Assembly and will now go to the state senate appropriations committee in August.

Chavez and Quirk-Silva both talked about the difficult road ahead, but stressed the importance of bipartisanship for this bill to succeed.

“My sense is the citizens really want government to work for them and this whole polarization thing isn’t good,” added Chavez. “Whenever you can have bipartisan effort on a particular issue, like education and veterans, then that is a good message to the community.”

McNeil said the meeting helped him understand the difficulties of getting the bill passed, but added that he is confident people will see the benefits of it.

“I had heard that it passed the Assembly with flying colors and I had hoped that it was just going to pass the senate the same way, but I found out it is going to be a little more difficult to get it through the state senate,” McNeil said. “All of the schools right now are hurting for money and that is where it gets difficult. But the school is going to gain by having more veterans and the community is going to gain by having the veterans stay here and not be on assistance, and actually be working.”

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