Thursday, July 1, 2010

Destruction of Our Schools

Because we have been unable to deal realistically with the cost of our state’s basic needs, 174 of our state’s public school districts are now facing fiscal crisis, up from only 22 before this recession began in 2006-07. These are the school districts that are unable to meet their financial needs over a 2-3 year period. State School Superintendent Jack O’Connell says that over the past 2 years, schools have received $17 billion less in funding than they had anticipated.

As we sow, so shall we reap.

Schools have taken a battering during the last few years of California’s recession and budget collapse. The reduced funding referred to by O’Connell doesn’t show the whole picture of the damage California is doing to our public schools because federal stimulus funds made up for much of the funding California failed to provide. Now that the federal stimulus funds have dried up and Congress isn’t providing more, California schools are staring into the abyss.

To make matters worse, the Governor proposes even more cuts to schools this year, although he ties himself up in knots to avoid suspending Proposition 98. The Legislative Analyst, on the other hand, is at least honest about suspending Proposition 98, but his proposal would do nearly as much damage. And, California is already behind the nation in school funding.

It is long past time for us to acknowledge that we are not in a short-term economic crisis that will resolve itself any time soon. The massive cuts being forced upon this state by the governor and Republicans are doing long-term damage to our children. They are bankrupting their future and the future of this state. At this point, the destruction is clear and deliberate. The continued refusal of my Republican colleagues to propose their version of a budget-balancing plan reflects either their desire to avoid the problem or their desire to reap political advantage by making Democrats take the cuts to meet their refusal to agree on new revenues like an oil severance tax. I’m not sure which is worse.

Responsible cuts are one thing — I supported them in the past — willful destruction is quite another.