Every year, there seems to be a budget battle—with our schools and children as the political football.
School district budgets must be adopted by June 30. That means if the legislators and governor can’t agree, districts often don’t know for sure their actual money situation. Then the state budget battle can drag on for months. That forces districts to make layoffs, cut programs, and change curriculum that might not need to be changed. This scenario is often the case in a good budget year.
This year, the budget picture is bad. Very bad. The governor’s proposed budget is fundamentally inconsistent with the state’s goal of improving student achievement.
The governor is proposing a more than $4 billion cut to school funding. Rather than prioritize cuts, the governor has proposed a 10 percent across-the-board cut, lumping school children in with road construction. That could result in the loss of tens of thousands of teachers, increased class sizes, further erosion of programs and the support system for students provided by special education aides, reading specialists, counselors, and other support personnel.
By calling for an across-the-board cut, the governor allows the federal government to cut their contributions as well, especially for special education.
During his recent visit to the Central Coast, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that education funding has been on a roller coaster ride. He is certainly right. However, with his proposed budget cuts, he is changing that ride from the Dragon Wagon to California Screamin’. If he agrees that there’s a problem, why doesn’t he suggest a way to get off the roller coaster, rather than seeking more of the same?
The PTA took a very strong stance against the governor’s proposal and is actively engaged in trying to stop the slashing of education funding. The proposed budget would make across-the-board cuts to education, healthcare, and other programs that directly impact the safety and well-being of our children. It flunks the basic test of good government and will surely hurt our children if it comes to pass.
Investing in public education is the best way to ensure the long-term growth and health of our state’s economy. Today’s students are tomorrow’s well-educated and highly skilled citizens who will fill more high-paying jobs, create more new businesses, and cost the state less in other social services.
One program on the block is Career Tech Education. Not all students go on to college, but their hard work in the future will only add to the economic stability of our state.
Given the alarming fact that California has among the lowest per-pupil funding and the largest class sizes in the country, the proposed budget would make a bad situation even worse. As a parent who volunteers at school, I can see the real-life value of smaller class sizes. For example, our classrooms were built with only so many kids in mind. Now, think about how chaotic your road-trip vacations would be with a back seat full of kids. Imagine adding more
kids. So, what is it like for a classroom teacher who has 30 to 35 kids? She can’t pull the classroom over and step out for a breather anytime she wants!
Not prioritizing the budget is not fair to our children. It is not fair to our teachers. It is not fair to you, the parents. The budget proposal is just plain bad government. I urge you to contact Sen. Abel Maldonado, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, and Gov. Schwarzenegger ,and let them know that cutting any money from education is wrong. We elected them to do a job; it’s time they get serious about it. You can find lots of information about local cuts and easy links to write the governor and legislators at www.saveslocountyschools.org.
Barbara Harris is a Paso Robles resident and president of the Twenty-Fourth District PTA.
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