By CTA President David A. Sanchez
As we prepare to close out this school year, we can't help but glimpse the tidal wave in the distance headed for public education due to the irresponsible and devastating recent state budget cuts. Our schools and colleges have been subjected to 60 percent of the total budget cuts. These cuts will bankrupt the academic future of California's 9.8 million students in our schools, colleges and universities.
California's economy continues to tumble. State revenues have dropped 17 percent from last year - a loss of more than $24 billion. And the defeat of the special election ballot measures is forcing even more cuts to education, health care and public safety.
CTA's State Council of Education made the right and courageous decision to support Propositions 1A-1F. We knew it was going to be a difficult campaign from the beginning, as voters were rightfully angry with the governor and the Legislature for failing to do their jobs. The defeat of Prop. 1B was especially disappointing, as it would have guaranteed the repayment of the more than $9 billion owed to education. But I am so proud of all the work CTA members did and all the phone calls members made during the campaign. CTA has already started legal action to ensure that our schools and community colleges get the money they are owed under the state's minimum school funding law. The defeat of those ballot measures and the growing state deficit led the governor to announce more cuts to schools. These cuts - the fourth round of cuts to education in just 18 months - include $1.6 billion this school year, and another $4.6 billion in the fiscal year starting July 1. These are in addition to the crippling $11.6 billion in cuts made to schools and colleges in February's budget deal. All told, that's nearly $3,000 per student.
Around the state, art, music, sports and vocational education programs have been cut. Dropout prevention programs, summer school, advanced placement courses and adult education classes have been eliminated. This means students will be facing class sizes of 35 to 40 students next year. College fees are increasing while the state is eliminating grant programs. We can't expect our students to continue to make improvements and meet California's rigorous education standards when the state refuses to provide the resources necessary to help students succeed. Progress in student achievement made in recent years, including improved test scores and Academic Performance Index (API) ratings, will be impossible to maintain in the midst of devastating program cuts. If the state can't provide adequate funding, it should temporarily suspend the testing and accountability system. More than 27,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and education support professionals have already received layoff notices, and with these additional budget cuts more layoffs are expected. Under a seldom-used provision in the Education Code, some districts have until Aug. 15 to issue a second round of layoffs. CTA is aggressively advocating for our members and students and will continue to do so throughout the summer (see the "Second-round layoffs assistance" link, next page).
Earlier this month in Sacramento, CTA organized a number of members to testify at a legislative hearing. These members, joined by others from the Education Coalition, told lawmakers how the cuts to education are destroying the chance for a better future for our students and our state. You can support their testimony by e-mailing your legislators and sharing your story on the CTA website. Legislators need to hear from educators.
More cuts to education and sacrificing our student's future won't solve the state's problems. Increased revenues must be part of the solution. CTA is calling on lawmakers to support majority-vote fee increases, rescind the tax breaks that were given to big business in the February budget agreement, and make it easier for local communities to raise revenues for schools by reducing the vote requirement for passing local parcel taxes. And finally, it's time to reform the state budget process once and for all and reduce the two-thirds vote requirement to pass the state budget. As long as a small minority can hold our state budget and our schools hostage, we're not going to be able to fix the problem.
The future we want for our students and our state can only be achieved by investing in our children today. The education of our students must be the state's top priority if we are going to reach a better future.
¡Sí Se Puede!
¿Por Qué No?
[Yes we can! Why not?], words inspired by César Chávez, encourage us to remember that, together, we can achieve great things.