Thursday, January 06, 2005


Binoculars at the ready, class? Direct your gaze to the bush on the right and you will see a most striking specimen of the Large-Breasted Austrian Liar:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose cutting state spending on K-12 education and community colleges by $2.2 billion when he presents his budget Monday, administration officials said.

The news came to school officials as they also were learning of the governor's plan to weaken Proposition 98, a constitutional provision to guarantee that education gets a set share of state revenues.

"We are left absolutely speechless by his proposal to suspend and amend Prop. 98 and resolve the state's fiscal troubles at the direct expense of 6 million public schoolchildren," said Scott P. Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn. . . . .

Schwarzenegger had vowed to protect schools from such cuts in return for their acceptance of billions of dollars in reductions last year to help balance the current budget. But Finance Director Tom Campbell told the school groups Wednesday afternoon that the governor would not be able to honor that deal. The administration will instead propose using $2.2 billion owed education to help close the state's projected $8.1-billion shortfall.

As the governor prepared to cut education, however, he said in his State of the State speech Wednesday that schools are already failing: About 30% of high school students do not graduate, he said.

And in a move that probably will draw further fire from educators, he proposed that teachers be paid based on merit rather than seniority.

"This is war," said Brett McFadden, legislative advocate for the Assn. of California School Administrators. "We are going to be out in the streets, in the schools, at the PTAs. We had a deal. We shook hands and put it in writing."
Here's a Nation article from last August about the already-crappy deal that Schwarzenegger, who campaigned on a promise to "protect education," just reneged on. The dweam he dweams is not the American dweam of equal opportunity for all; it is the Republican dweam of unchecked social Darwinism and devil-take-the-hindmost:
Schwarzenegger is setting two dangerous precedents for education in California. He struck a deal with the California Teacher's Association (CTA) to suspend constitutionally guaranteed K--12 school funding. And he proposed suspending the promise, for the first time in forty years, that every eligible California high school graduate would have a place at the University of California or a California State University. This from the governor who pledged to "work to expand the dream of college."

Schwarzenegger's wheeling and dealing began in January with a back-room pact with the CTA to suspend the state constitution. The CTA agreed to a $2 billion increase in K--12 school funding this year,
half of what the constitution mandates, in exchange for assurances that (in better economic times) all the money will eventually be restored. With the state saddled with record deficits and a governor who steadfastly refuses to consider raising revenue through taxes, CTA president Barbara Kerr argues that, "in order for our state to stay afloat, concessions were needed" . . . .

"If you adjust for the cost of living, you can make the case that we are close to last in per-pupil spending in this country," says Delaine Eastin, the former State Superintendent of Schools, California's top education post. California's per pupil spending is around $6500, while New York spends nearly $11,000 per student. "The governor is not putting children first. California is not putting our children first," says Eastin. "There has been a back-room deal cut where everyone agrees to cut education and not talk much about it. It is wrong."

How serious are the cuts? Just take a look at the West Contra Costa Unified School District, an urban area encompassing some of the poorest parts of the San Francisco Bay area. In March, the district, which has been forced to pare down its budget by $28 million over the last three years, eliminated all school sports programs, closed all its libraries and pink-slipped more than 200 employees. That amounts to nearly $1,000 per student in cuts over three years. "It saddens me," says Catherine Berman, a speech teacher there who retired in 2002 and has yet to be replaced. "I see students losing opportunities in urban settings" . . . .

"Although more egregious," Eastin laments, "West Contra Costa is a mini-lesson on what is happening all over the state." But some schools, like Lowell High School of San Francisco, are fighting cuts with voracious private fundraising. An academic magnet school that consistently ranks in the top three in the state, Lowell has a strong alumni network and a dedicated Parent Teacher Student Association. The school is not "wealthy," one in five students qualify for free or reduced lunches, but it does have a fundraising base to draw from.

What results is the de facto privatization of public education. Because the state refuses to provide sufficient funding, affluent communities are filling in the gap. But many communities cannot afford to pay for what is supposed to be free public education.

"It is tragic and unfair," says Michele Winter, a Lowell music teacher. "The neediest schools don't have a fundraising base. How can you raise funds from a base of low-income families? It is widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots."

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