In an effort to stem California’s growing deficits, Jerry Brown’s decisions will affect most everyone in California. Among other proposals, Brown intends on renewing heightened tax rates through special elections and on hacking away spending for welcare programs and public education in order to trim away at the state’s deficit.
Despite good intentions, Brown is essentially opting to begin his third term in the governorship by taking the short term approach to securing California’s future. With respect to his designs on cutting education spending, this is a mistake.
California ranks near the bottom in multiple aspects of education, including teacher-student ratios and spending per student. This translates into less academic success for students in the K-12 system and a diminished set of opportunities for students to attend college. Even if they are accepted into a four-year program, the damage will have already been done in terms of limiting potential for success. students will more likely be required to take remedial courses in basic-level English and math to cover for everything first-year college students are expected to know by their first day on campus, thus increasing the time it takes to receive a bachelor’s degree.
In the long run, this model will prove both financially and socially disastrous for California’s future.
This fiscal year, Governor Brown should follow Schwarzenegger’s example with respect to safeguarding both K-12 education and higher education from further spending cuts. As the former governor did for the UC system, Brown should restore funding for elementary, middle and high schools.
The UC, Cal State and community college systems in California, while admittedly in decline, remain arguably the preeminient collection of public higher education institutions in the nation. Brown’s prioiryt for higher education should be to stop the bleeding. On the other hand, California’s K-12 system has long ranked in the bottom tiers of the nation’s schools. Here, Borwn must not only prvent further cuts, but work towards a fundemental reform and restructuring of the broken K-12 system.
In a recent move which has been largely regarded as a concession to the California Teachers Association, Brown fired seven members of the California Board of Education. The members fired made up the majority of the Board and were largely supportive of charter schools and teacher accountability for student test scores, measures which the CTA opposes. Brown will need support from the teacher’s union for success in the special election which will extend tax increases. This is a necessary step if education is to be protected from further cuts. However, catering to the CTA, which clings to the status-quo in a broken education system, will make the necessary reforms for state schools difficult to achieve.
Bargaining with the CTA is probably the best strategy for Brown in the short term. It will help him secure the tax evenue needed to begin fixing education. However, in the long run, he must not back away from confronting the union over reform.
If the Californian economy is to recover, this recovery is likely to be led by technological and information industries. A highly skilled and qualified workforce will be necessary for a technology driven economy. To this end, education should be California’s highest priority. As Brown scours the budget for areas to cut spending, education should be the last place he turns. By preventing further cuts to higher education and by restoring funding and working to reform K-12 schools, Brown can prepare California for success in the economy of the future.