Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Economic crisis and the schools

Where We Stand _CTA.

January 15, 2009

California schools and students are suffering, and local school districts are already at the tipping point. The $3.5 billion in cuts made last year have led to larger class sizes, more than 10,000 layoffs of teachers and other education support staff, and the further elimination of art, music, and career technical education programs. Some schools have even shut down their libraries. The governor’s latest budget proposal would just make things worse.

The Governor’s proposal to cut an additional $10.8 billion over the next 18 months is an irresponsible assault on California’s students and schools. And adding further insult, the governor is redefining Proposition 98, the state’s minimum school funding law, to take $7 billion from our schools that would never be repaid, in direct violation of the constitutional guarantee. Lawmakers need to raise revenues and solve California’s budget problem without further detrimental cuts to an already underfunded public school system.

These additional cuts will further devastate schools and colleges, causing thousands of additional layoffs, even larger class size increases, more program cuts, and possible school closures. Some local schools are talking about increasing all class sizes to 40 students, while others are planning to eliminate all sports programs. The cuts proposed by the Governor will totally change public schools in California as we know them, robbing our children of a well-rounded education and leaving an academic scar on an entire generation.

It’s long past time for lawmakers to stop playing partisan politics and pass some revenue increases. Investing in public education is the best investment we can make in the future of our children and our state. We warned the Legislature last year that relying on more borrowing would just make the situation worse – and it has. Every day they don’t take action, our kids pay a bigger price.

Education Week recently released a report that shows California has dropped from 46th to 47th in per-pupil funding, and lags behind the national average by $2,400. Those figures don’t even include the latest cuts or indicate where the state would be ranked under the governor’s new proposal. Lawmakers should be working to improve support for students, not making things worse.

The governor’s proposal to cut the school year by five days does nothing to improve student learning. California students cannot continue their recent progress if the state takes away important instruction time. The governor’s proposal hurts students in poorer communities most by eliminating all funding designed to help lower-performing schools.

CTA opposes any changes to the state’s successful Class Size Reduction program. Smaller class sizes are key to improving student learning, especially for ethnic minority children and English learners. The governor’s proposal for complete and permanent “flexible” use of all categoricals is simply encouraging school districts to rob Peter to pay Paul. The fact is, flexibility without adequate funding provides false hope that schools can do more with even fewer resources.

The use of deferrals and accounting gimmicks in the Governor’s proposal further shortchanges schools this year and will lead to cash flow problems for school districts. It pushes the problem down the road and does nothing to address the need for new and reliable revenue sources for public schools.

For our community colleges the proposed cuts could reduce enrollment by at least 5 percent, force community colleges to turn away nearly 263,000 students, and seriously impact thousands of unemployed Californians who recently enrolled to seek training for new jobs.

The Governor’s proposed 10 percent cut to the UC and CSU systems would be devastating. The California State University announced the cuts will force CSU campuses to turn away at least 10,000 students who apply for admission next fall. It is the first time that the nation's largest four-year university has officially endorsed a system-wide concept of refusing admission to eligible students.
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