Sunday, January 9, 2011

National Guard Can’t Save California’s Schools

New California schools chief Tom Torlakson declared a “state of financial emergency,” saying, “The law won’t allow me to call in the National Guard, so I’m saying to every Californian: ‘Your schools need your help and they need it now.’”

Well, they certainly need help, but not for the reasons the Ed Deformers love to claim (bad teachers, bad unions, etc. ad nauseum). $18 billion has been cut from education over the last three years in California. There will be another $2 billion lost next year just from declining tax revenues, and Torlakson estimates that $11 billion of the current $28 billion state budget deficit applies to education.

The numbers certainly look bleak, but bombastic metaphors won’t solve the problem. How could the National Guard help our schools, anyway? They need money, not soldiers. Or was Torlakson actually concerned that there might be civil unrest over the impending cuts? If so, then the law would allow Jerry Brown to call in the National Guard.

Perhaps the threat of a military occupation of California was intended to scare us into accepting the tax increases that Brown plans to ask from us in the next election. Considering that the bulk of these increases would come from raising the regressive sales tax, and across the board income tax hikes that would disproportionately impact lower and middle income families who are still reeling from a 12% unemployment rate, continued foreclosures, and stagnating salaries, Torlakson’s is justified in fearing a no vote. Anyway, even if the new taxes pass, they are only expected to cover a portion of the deficit, and education will still take a big hit.

“Your schools need you,” is a desperate plea. Parents can’t have bake sales anymore, as they are banned by many schools because they compete with Sodexo, Aramark and other cafeteria providers. Parents could dig deeper into their pockets and make donations or volunteer their time for other fundraising activities, and they most likely will. But this will mostly be lower and middle income families who tend to have children in public schools that are desperate for money. The rich already donate heavily to their kids’ private schools and are unlikely to contribute to public schools (unless of course they’re Bill Gates or Eli Broad trying to further their privatization agenda).

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