I ended last week’s column with this wish, “vote yes on increasing funding for the children in 2011.” For me the yearning is as serious as life and death. How we treat our children will be correlated with the quality of our lives in the future. And for me the future is now.
Several bloggers disagreed and asserted that education in California still needs to be cut more. One blogger, Ina, requested information from me that if we increase funding where would the cuts be made to offset the funding increase. She asked me to be specific. Well…
The facts speak volumes. Kindergarten through college (K-16) makes up two of the top three budget categories in California. These two categories together make up nearly 55 percent of the state budget.
K-12 education has taken a bigger percentage “hit” than any other budget category in the last few years. We are allowing our elected state officials to withdraw vital sources of funding to a very ill patient. With these enormous budget cuts to K-12 we have seen districts increase class size, reduce the school year, land ay off counselors, librarians, nurses, teachers, and administrators. California has been near last in 50 states in all these aforementioned areas for far too many years. Therefore, my conclusion is we cannot cut K-12 education any more than we have already. No cuts. No cuts. No cuts.
As for other categories of the state budget I am not sure. Reduction in employee salaries or pensions is a partial answer, but can pan out to be shortsighted over time. As we cut salaries or other non-essential state positions we increase the unemployment rate and lower tax revenue to the state. In LAST Sunday’s New York Times editorial, headlined “The Looming Crisis in the States,” the author opines that “whatever there was to cut, states have slashed it, often at ruinous costs to the most vulnerable: the poor, the sick and disabled, students, tens of thousands of laid-off workers.”
For me our children deserve a better plan. If we cannot agree to come up with a funding plan that paves the way for a second to none educational system then we will never increase the high school graduation rate, significantly reduce the achievement gap and build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
The Times editorial said “ultimately, states are going to have to acknowledge that more effective, targeted tax increases are inevitable, and can be achieved if they are structure properly…States should not shy away from asking for more help from those most able to pay…experienced economists say it is better to raise taxes on the rich than to lay off workers and cut spending.”
I have always favored “sin” taxes as one source of revenue. Cigarettes should be $10 a pack, there should be a surcharge on every alcohol drink served in restaurants or sold in stores, perhaps 25 cents per drink and $1 per bottle of wine, six pack of beer, or bottle of spirits. Through these targeted taxes we can raise billions in additional revenue for children’s schools. A win-win I think.
In 1916 the richest 1 percent of Americans held 50 percent of the nation’s wealth. Today the richest 1 percent hold 35 percent of the nation’s wealth, while 80 percent of Americans hold 16 percent of it. Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have a democracy, but we can’t have both.”
The best way for us to build a vibrant and healthy democracy is through quality public education. Are we a generation bold and courageous enough to take on the challenge or will we continue to kick the can down the road as we continue to devolve as state and nation?
I will be traveling next week so I will not be posting. I wish all SJI readers and bloggers a very healthy, peaceful, and warm new year. Thank you for reading and responding. My hope is in this new year we will not attack one another, but to use this vehicle as a means to generate solutions to public education’s vexing problems for our discourse.