Wednesday, January 14, 2009

California's deep cuts to SpED

The governor that recalled a governor because the budget in California was not balanced cannot balance the budget. Things have become incredibly chaotic under the Governator than they ever were under Pete Wilson. 

Just last week, school districts, which compose their budgets for the 08-09 school year in June (six months ago), were told that they had to make additional cuts for this year. That means they have to figure out how to unspend money already spent. This after making deep cuts for the current year last spring. (Confused? That is because the whole process does not make sense-- does your paycheck get revised after it is in the bank?)
Who is in charge up there? Why are Californians not storming the capitol? 
What this means in the real world, not the land of magical thinking that Schwatzenager seems to occupy, is that classes are being combined mid-year, assistants, nurses, speech therapists are being fired mid-year and schools that somehow managed to hang onto music and athletics are losing them mid-year. One child said to the board: It seems like we just got music back, and now you are taking it away again! 
Last night, our board had to figure out how to make an additional 16 million dollars worth of cuts. Line by line, they went through the budget. News flash! Education is not a huge wasteful enterprise, not some pork barrel project. It is actually a pretty lean, efficient system. Well, lean. It would be more efficient with more money, actually.  So, line by line, the community looked for the corporate jet and the martini lunches, the tax sheltered golf games, the trips to conferences at exotic resorts. They just are not there. The corporate holiday party for teachers at my child's school was a box of fudge and a thank you card brought by parents and a pot luck lunch brought by teachers.  

So what they cut is jobs.

And how is laying off all of these people-- groundskeepers, custodians, carpenters, music teachers, coaches, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses, teachers' aides-- how exactly does that help our state economy? Now we have more people needing unemployment, in danger of losing their homes... how does that help? 
The mantra of the right that we have a spending problem is just getting to threadbare. The whole party wants to patch the holes in their seats. They don't seem to realize they are wearing the emperor's clothes and there is nothing to patch.
As a California home owner (there are still some left) our family pays less in property taxes than the state pays per year to educate two typically developing children. We have three kids, one with special needs. Those taxes need to also cover water systems, fire services, hiway patrol, 911. In short, we make a profit on our taxes and our state government. 
We do NOT have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem.  MORE NEW TAXES!
Congratulations to the right-- you have finally managed to cripple the finest public education system ever built.  The only system ever attempt to educate all it's citizens regardless of race, class, religious affiliation, gender or disability; to attempt to educate all citizens equally; to invest in social mobility and cultivate talent from every sector of society is now on it's knees, thanks to your strangle hold on funds and your anti-education agenda. Your loathing for this great equalizer has finally born fruit. The schools that can actually educate function only because they are supported by wealthy PTAs and private foundations, while the schools attended by poor and working class families are falling apart. Parents of typically developing children are calling for cuts to special education. One parent described what is happening to our district as "death by a thousand cuts." 
I suppose next spring you'll be complaining about test scores and blaming children, parents and teachers for those too. I blame you. I know how hard those teachers work, and how much time we spend on homework and at board meetings. Now you, the legislature, need to do your part. We need more teachers, smaller classes, more supplies and enough money to heat the buildings. Oh-- that stuff is not free. 

Shame, shame, shame on us for letting the legislature get away with this. Let's take the week off, hop on those district funded jets, go up to the capitol and demand a rescue package for our school system. And afterwards, we can go out for cocktails and plan our next golf vacation...

For more on this issue, see the article in the SF Chronicle: