Thursday, August 07, 2008

The budget, schools + children

The budget stalemate and children
Once again Californians are treated to a budget standoff-as we have been so often in the last 10 years. This is not a failure to govern on the part of the legislature although it is portrayed as such in local sound bite news reports. The majority party could have passed a budget on June 15 but it is blocked from governing by the Republican minority including Assemblyman Roger Neillo, co-owner of the local Neillo auto dealerships.
It is clear that a budget resolution will require some cut back and some tax increases. It makes a great deal of difference which taxes will be increased. Republicans use the requirement of a 2/3 vote on taxes to block majority rule and to prevent tax increases. This is misgovernment by ideology.
In the next two to three weeks schools across California will be opening. Over 6 million children will be returning to school. Some 477,000 will be entering first grade in over 5,000 schools. Each of these schools have a budget and each of these budgets are in confusion while the state decides what to do about their budget crisis. At least 25% of the schools will not be ready for the students because the school doesn’t know what its budget will be.
Will the school have an ELL teacher or two?
Will there be a reading coach?
Will class size be 24 or 32? Which really means we will have to re-organize each of the classes and the teachers.
What will happen to the new programs established last year under the Quality investment in Education Act?
Shall the district hire a new teacher or only a 30 day substitute ?
Do we have the money for an ELL specialist or will the money be for an algebra teacher? And when we finally hear if we have the money, will the well qualified algebra teacher have moved to another state where this annual disruption of their lives does not occur? Really, would you wait 2-3 months each year to see if you had a job?
And, even in mainstreamed classes, will there be two English Learners or eight?
These are but the start of the many decisions that need to be made. Rather than beginning school in late August, far too many classrooms will have to wait until October while the budget gets decided and allocations are made.

This is a state that ranks 47th. in math and about 48th in reading. A state budget impasse each year creates 4-6 weeks of school disruption, confusion, and disorganization.
And then the legislature calls for accountability?
The budget impasse is not only about whether legislators and their staff’s can attend their respective party conventions. The impasse is also about the annual disruption of education for thousands of California students, and the disruptions of health care payments, and the disruptions of state worker pay, etc.
Assemblyman Neillo’s telephone number is 916- 349-1995

Duane Campbell
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