A May 3rd article in the Orange County Register reports that year-to-date on the national level close to 15,000 jobs in public education have been cut due to budgetary issues. Trailing far behind in second place is government jobs, with nearly 9,000 jobs lost.
There’s something wrong with this. How is it possible that teachers and administrators in the public school systems are more expendable than general government workers? There isn’t anything more important than maintaining a safe, enriching environment in which our children can learn, grow and socialize, developing into contributing members of society. I understand that the support and infrastructure of our government is also vitally necessary to our country, but nearly twice as much so? I find that hard to believe.
I have an idea. Why don’t we cut the state and local government budgets in half. Let’s give each of our district representatives and state assemblymen and women twice as much to do by doubling their district size. I know they’re working hard already – I know they are scurrying around the 50 state capitals taking meetings and fielding calls from donors, constituents and the like. I realize that many of them commute from their homes far from the seat of their state government, sacrificing time with their families. But whatever it is they’re doing, whatever votes they’re casting or hands they’re shaking, it can’t be more important than teaching 4th graders in a low income school, or counseling teens with learning disabilities, or mentoring new teachers who are hoping to make a career in a rapidly decelerating market – education. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but it’s true. Education is devolving into an afterthought in so many ways. For most public schools, volunteer help is what keeps the schools from collapsing under the weight of money needed for extracurricular activities, classroom management, supply replenishment, and so much more. Oh, and just to add a little bit more money to the coffers, we should require lobbyists to donate a small percentage of funds to the local schools of whichever congressman they are trying to snuggle up to – in 2011 $3.32 billion was spent by lobbyists in pursuit of increased business for their clients.
Public education in the United States is rapidly becoming a sacrificial lamb. Just look at what is happening to the California State University system. The largest and, once upon a time, most accessible state higher education system in the country has had a whopping $1 billion, or 33%, cut from its budget over the last four years. Nearly 7% of its workforce has been let go. Tuition has been increased by 9%. If the Governor’s tax proposal does not pass in November, an additional $200 million will be cut, and in 2013 there will be a maximum of 25,000 students admitted to the 23 Cal State campuses for spring and fall –that’s for the entire year. There are currently 420,000 students enrolled in a Cal State school, so you can see how low that number is.
For the youngest of our children in California, this possible budget cut will further decrease the number of K-3 classes able to continue with the much valued 20-1 ratio that has been in place for years. It would also keep children who will turn five between November 1 and December 2 from enrolling in kindergarten, affecting some 40,000 children, as a new pre-k readiness program is put on the back burner.
There is no easy solution to these massive budget problems, but it is shortsighted to implement cuts that will so drastically disrupt and change our public education system from kindergarten through college. Education should be the last place cuts should be made, not the first, but by cutting twice as many education jobs as government jobs across this country it is obvious that there are choices being made – and none of them are for our kids.