Friday, December 03, 2010

The Sacramento Bee and the legislature continue to fail our schools

Today's Sacramento Bee (Dec. 3)  editorial calls for an infusion of new leadership to keep Natomas Unified from failing.  As described yesterday in the post below - Natomas is not failing.  It is under funded as are almost all schools districts in the state.  The Bee editorial board calls for "civic leaders"  to let Natomas Unified teaches know that they should settle and take a 7.9 % pay cut to balance the budget.
However, California school budgets are all in crisis and they will continue in crisis for several years as a consequence of the economic collapse of the housing market and the financial heist of Wall Street. ( See "the Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One" in the archives of choosing democracy blog.)
I would like to see the "civic leaders", including the Bee editorial board insist that the state adequately fund our schools.  Poll after poll show that the tax payers want their schools adequately funded, but the legislature has refused, and has been unable to fund the schools in this crisis. The Robles-Wong suite against California on school funding makes these points well.
This kind of crisis will engulf more and more school districts.  Those unwilling to take on the corporate elite- like the Sacramento Bee editorial board- will continue to call for the teaches to take the pay cut.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chaired by Phil Angelides will soon make their report showing who really caused the crisis and who profited from the economic crisis. The Bee calls for new leadership but does not call upon the financial insiders to be held accountable and to pay for the crisis they have created.  The students will have a reduced education and the Bee will castigate the teachers. That is our future for the next few years.

The headline in the Sacramento Bee  says, “School district is going broke,” Dec.2,2010. P. B1.  The article by Diana Lambert.
The article, and the headlines, miss the major points, create a distorted frame for the story, and assign blame for the wrong problem.
The issue is that the Natomas schools have cut their budgets by $31.2 million, and now, due to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools, they must cut even more. Natomas is not a troubled school district. Like all districts it must respond to the draconian cuts imposed from the state.

The new superintendent and the school board wants the teachers to take a bigger pay cut.  That is, they insist that teachers take pay cuts to respond to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools.  The Bee regularly argues that teachers should take these cuts.

These cuts hurt children. Already the district has raised its class size from 20 to 25 in k-3. This means that some children will not learn to read and some will not learn math. It is difficult to make these cuts since they damage the quality of education.

Appointing a financial monitor is a means of enforcing a failed state policy of budget cuts. An accounting view of the problem is that the district must make the cuts. An educational view of the problem is that the School Board has a responsibility to provide a quality education for all the children.

The children did not cause the economic crisis. Major banks and corporations like AIG and Citi corp looted the economy creating an international meltdown. Now, they have been rewarded with bail out money and Wall Street has recovered.  Meanwhile, the anti tax crowd roars, - no new taxes and the Republican Party minority used the anti democratic 2/3 vote rule last year to  prevent raising taxes.

The result. Each child have about $1,400 less spent on their education this year. This in a state that already ranks 49 out of the 50 states in reading. Children will have larger classes, they will learn less, and they will have less support. The County office of education nor the independent consultant will provide help for this real problem.

The  cuts are imposed by the economic crisis- not the school board and that the cuts hurt children. These kinds of severe budget cuts are occurring in schools throughout the state.  The difference is do the school board pass on the cuts and do the teachers accept the cuts.  What would be an alternative?  Well, if the Congress passed a financial transaction tax of say .25 %, their would be money for the schools and other needed projects.  Notice. You pay 8% tax on all purchases, but when finance capital buys and sells stocks, they do not pay a tax on these sales. 
Notice also, that the stimulus funds sent to the schools this year to create jobs are being held by several districts.  And, given the Republican win of the control of the House of Representatives, it is unlikely that further stimulus funds will be passed.
  All the well informed economists predict that this economic crisis will last at least two more years and the fiscal crisis in the states - including California- will last years beyond that.  That is, there is no improvement coming in California school budgets.  The quality of education in the schools will continue to deteriorate.

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