|I Like Children. They're Delicious (Scott Clarkson)|
Jerry Brown has assured us that K-12 education funding will be spared in this round of budget cuts, so long as voters approve tax hikes on themselves in June. As I described in a previous post, this is a lie. Schools were never given what they were owed last year, so if funding stays the same this year, it will be just as slashed as it was last year.
While it would be more accurate to say that K-12 won’t be slashed any more than it was last year, even this would be a deception. With rising enrollment and inflation, holding funding constant actually results in a de facto decrease in per pupil allocations.
Over the past three years, $18 billion has been cut from the K-12 system. According to State Superintendent Torlakson, 58% of schools have cut educational materials, 48% have cut nursing and counseling staff, 35% have increased class sizes, and nearly half have cut teacher pay. Despite all these cuts, 16% of California school districts will be insolvent within three years.
To truly “spare” K-12 education, Brown needs to restore the $18 billion that was cut over the last three years. Then try doing something about the growing poverty, homelessness and privation that undermine children’s cognitive, social and physical development. Of course, one might wonder what good it is to “save” K-12 education, when the CSU and UC systems are each taking a $500 million hit, and the community colleges are also having their budgets slashed. The majority of those lucky enough to graduate high school won’t be able to afford a degree from the University of California without also acquiring a debt of up to $20-30,000. In this economy, what are the chances of finding a job that will allow them to make the minimum payments?