An article this past May in the Orange County Register reports that year-to-date, on the national level, close to 15,000 jobs in public education have been cut due to budgetary issues. Trailing far behind in second place is government jobs, with nearly 9,000 jobs lost. In California, 11% of all teachers have been laid off in the past three years.
How can anyone think that teachers and administrators in the public school systems are more expendable than general government workers? There isn’t anything more important than maintaining a safe, enriching environment in which our children can learn, grow and socialize, developing into contributing members of society. I understand that the support and infrastructure of our government is vitally necessary, but nearly twice as much as education? I find that hard to believe.
I have an idea. Why don’t we cut the state and local government budgets by half. Let’s give each of our district representatives and assemblymen and women twice as much to do by doubling their district size. These are difficult jobs – there’s a lot of travel involved and time away from home. There’s a lot of networking, phone calling, and a lot of rubber chicken dinners to attend – all of which are deemed necessary to keep our state running smoothly. But whatever it is they’re doing, whatever votes they’re casting or hands they’re shaking, it can’t possibly be more important than teaching 4th graders in a low income school, or counseling teens with learning disabilities, or mentoring new teachers who are hoping to make a career in a rapidly decelerating market – education. In many public schools, volunteers are what keep things running smoothly, fighting against the tide of the lack of money and staff needed for extracurricular activities, classroom management, supply replenishment, and so much more. Since our schools are in such a financial bind, why don’t we require lobbyists to donate, say, 10% of funds spent to influence government representatives to public schools? In 2011, on a national level, $3.32 billion was spent by lobbyists.
What’s happening to the California State University system is a disgrace. The largest and, until recently, most affordable and accessible state higher education system in the country has had a whopping $1 billion, or 33%, cut from its budget over the last four years. Nearly 7% of its workforce has been let go. Tuition has been increased by 9%. If the Governor’s tax proposal does not pass in November, an additional $200 million will be cut, and in 2013 there will be a maximum of 25,000 students admitted to the 23 Cal State campuses for spring and fall – that’s for the entire year. There are currently 420,000 students enrolled in a Cal State school. Assuming that a quarter of those students are freshmen, the enrollment of 25,000 students represents a 75% reduction. That number includes community college transfers, also. This is an insult to every family in the California public schools who believed that, when the time came for their children to attend college, there would be a state university available to them – a school for nearly everyone, at a price that was manageable and wouldn’t burden their students with huge student loans.
For the youngest of our children in California, this proposed budget will further decrease the number of K-3 classes available with the much valued 20-1 ratio that has been in place for years. It would also keep children who will turn five between November 1 and December 2 from enrolling in kindergarten, affecting some 40,000 children, as a new pre-k readiness program is put on the back burner.
There is no easy solution to these massive budget problems, but it is shortsighted to implement cuts that will so drastically disrupt and change our public education system from kindergarten through college. Education should be the last place cuts should be made, not the first, but by cutting twice as many education jobs as government jobs in our state and across the country, it is obvious that there are choices being made – and none of them are for our kids.
California’s massive budget problems are obviously not easily remedied, and there are as many ideas as to how to fix this problem as there are members of state government. However, it is shortsighted to implement budget cuts that will so drastically disrupt the education of our children, whether in kindergarten or college. What good are we as a state – or country – if we raise under-educated children? Cutting jobs in education at twice the rate of other government jobs is a mistake, and we must do everything we can to stop the dismantling of our public education system.