Skip to comments.California's fiscal crisis hits schools
Posted on 03/21/2008 10:53:00 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Los Angeles - California, home to 1 in 9 American schoolchildren, is on the brink of what may be the biggest public education crisis in state history.
Facing a $16 billion state budget shortfall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed $4.8 billion in school-funding cuts, or 10 percent of education spending.
In the past week, over 20,000 preliminary pink slips were sent by school districts to teachers and administrators state wide, according to the California Teachers Association. The association estimates another 87,000 (of a total 350,000 public school teachers) could come if Governor Schwarzenegger holds to his budget cut request.
Some say the request is a cry of "wolf" intended to draw public attention and force stalemated politicians to reconsider the cuts or raise taxes. Others say fiscal reality will push the cuts through as presented.
Meanwhile, school districts and parents are in paroxysms over the thousands of teacher layoffs, the projected loss of librarians, nurses, counselors, and arts personnel; and the need to close schools, increase class sizes, and postpone buying new books.
"This is a story that carries important lessons for how American states fund their public education," says Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford University in Palo Alto. California's Proposition 13 of 1978, which capped property taxes, made districts more dependent on state aid for education. The state, he says "has seen its public schools suffer ever since."
"Most states leave the cushion of allowing local government to raise property taxes when state school revenues don't come through. This is a giant case study that they might want to keep that option or end up like California."
There are other problems with the state's governance that have cost education in budget battles going back decades, Dr. Kirst and others say. State revenues are derived largely from capital-gains taxes and progressive income tax, a combination that causes wild swings in revenue. "[So] when times are good they are very good and when bad they are painful," says Kirst.
And because the state budget requires a two-thirds majority to pass, a handful of politicians can block it. "With the state GOP refusing to approve anything with revenue tied to it and Democrats unwilling to pass education cuts, it's a recipe for this year's stalemate," says Kevin Gordon, president of School Innovations and Advocacy, the state's largest lobbying firm for public schools.
This boom/bust cycle has wreaked havoc on California public education. From 1980 to 2000, the state dropped from No. 1 on several indicators per pupil spending, test scores, and teachers' salaries to below 47. When boom times came 1999 taxes on capital gains brought $24 billion to the state treasury schools spent the windfall immediately to make up for past debt, without saving for rainy days to come.
The result has been a pattern of teacher shortages, with many of the best teachers fleeing the state seeking stability, better conditions, and higher salaries. This adds to the state's other problems: 25 percent of students are "English learners," who need to be taught in special classes, and the number of schools serving low-income students is well above the national average.
Experts say teacher shortages could occur again in the current situation, even if the proposed budget cuts don't make it through. That's because state law mandates that school districts notify next fall's laid-off teachers by March 15, and by May 15 if such notices are to be rescinded. Because most state budgets here are not signed until August, the teachers who have been laid off may have already left for greener pastures. "By fall, the state may have changed its mind about those teachers it just gave pink slips to, but by then it could be too late," says Scott Plotkin, president of the California School Boards Association.
Whatever happens, it is clear that teachers, district officials, and parents are anxious. San Diego County school districts are slashing $360 million partly by expanding classrooms at the earliest grades of elementary school, usually capped at 20 students. Nurses and librarians will be shared among schools.
Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest district in the US, is also anticipating $460 million in cuts by killing off elective courses, some sports programs, and firing art teachers, counselors, and personnel from cafeterias to gymnasiums.
"Already the bathrooms stink, the roof is leaking, and we never have enough textbooks. Now the school is going to take away key teachers and personnel," says Fidel Garcia, father of two at Manchester Ave. Elementary School in downtown L.A. "This can't be right."
To fight the cuts, the CTA has launched a statewide PR campaign, complete with placard protests and letters, targeting key legislators. Experts say a concerted public outcry is necessary. "If the public doesn't get a sense of what these deep cuts mean [by seeing that] your favorite teacher won't be at school next year or new textbooks might not be purchased then there will be no political traction to get this reversed," says Mr. Gordon.
Even so, some damage has already been done. California will need thousands of teachers in the next decade. Says David Sanchez, president of the CTA: "Why would any good teacher want to come here if they have to wonder what each year's budget is going to bring?"
we always here about this but many people I know with teaching degrees can not find full time jobs!.....
does anyone know just how much the average California teacher makes ?...and what the average pension/yr is?......that kind of info seems never to be talked about....
What moronic crud... A radio station said that as many as 4 thousand administrators were getting pink slips. It begs the question - why do we have 4 thousand administrators in the first place? Stop blowing money. The biggest waste of money in the state is making every campus ADA compatible. It dwarfs the billions we spend educating illegals.
Can’t say ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ in schools there now. When the Christian homeschoolers and such yank their kids out of the schools, I will like to see what that exodus does to their godless, atheistic, pro-gay, pro-abort school system. Hope it totally tanks. It will help out the other 49 states’ school systems, textbook-wise.
http://www.aft.org/salary/2005/download/AFT2005SalarySurvey.pdf (Reported by the AFT, a national teachers union. Data from 2005. See p. 32.)
the link here goes to a pdf file ,, go to page 4, Figure 2..
Note this is 2001-2002, I am looking for more current but this will give you a general idea.
The older teachers make decent change. Where a big chunk of the money goes is all the non-teaching professionals. Superintendents make big money. Then all the school shrinks, counselors, numerous administrators. All of these people pay union dues. They have union leaders that get paid more for being leaders.
ooops ,, go to page 5 of the pdf for figure 2
btw, there is quite a bit of data in that pdf ,, albeit a bit dated.
“When boom times came 1999 taxes on capital gains brought $24 billion to the state treasury schools spent the windfall immediately to make up for past debt, without saving for rainy days to come.”
I’m not sure I agree with the premise of this sentence. Schools are allocated money by local or state governments for the purpose of paying its bills that year.
It’s not a school district’s job to put some of its money into securities, it’s not a self-contained, self-capitalized business; it’s a government service. It’s the gov’t’s job to make sure it has capital available for all its projects. Not to say there hasn’t been waste, but the job of any government agency is to spend its budget. They were given the money to spend by the powers that be.
More fake reporting....no one has received a pink slip yet....and spending isnt being cut...future increases are being cut.
And they want me to stop homeschooling my kids so they can attend schools like these? They're crazy! Over half the schools in my city are failing schools - they look slightly better than a crack house and the kids they're turning out need to take their shoes off to count to twenty. I'd rather up and move out of this state than have my child put one toe into these schools.
The teachers’ union has a death grip on California.
Being first in spending and teacher salaries should get the system to the toilet roll, not the honor roll.
Pink slips were handed out in Northern California today, a cousin and her coworker, both young teachers just out of college without tenure, were pink slipped. Anecdotal, but I did exchange email with her just a few minutes ago.
Some of that could be the demise of the Secure Schools and Communities Self Determination Act funds. These funds replaced the 20% timber receipts previously paid from timber sale profits on National Forests to local schools and county road departments. The timber receipts halted when the Northwest Forest Plan (spotted owl) stopped timber harvest. The Secure Schools Act has now sunsetted. My rural county in California lost nine million in revenues per year to schools and roads. The Governor’s cuts would be in addition. This has plunged schools and Counties into a budget crisis.
It looks like we’ll finally be out of the public school system next year. My son just got into a private high school, and my girls are already in private school.
I’d just like my tax dollars back.
Thanks. I was about to ask, “What is the dollar figure that was spent last year, and what is the dollar figure proposed to be spent this year?” I simply presumed that the reporter was lying, and that more dollars will be spent on education this year than last.
Do you happen to know the numbers?
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