This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
A recent editorial directed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators on these pages bore the headline, "It's a crisis; act like it's a crisis."
Today, with no solution in sight, Californians remain in a surreal world, where the Capitol players act as if the state is simply going through a typical budget shortfall, reflecting the usual ebbs and flows of the business cycle.
Incredibly during this mega-crisis, several unions are spending their political capital and union coffers to fight two-day furloughs, a loss of two days of pay per month. They seem to prefer massive layoffs.
And now, the California Teachers Association is running television ads urging legislators to reject proposals to give school districts funding flexibility to mitigate inevitable cuts.
Are we in a crisis or not? The CTA, it seems, doesn't think so.
The fact is, more than $15 billion of the state's $50 billion K-12 education budget is tied up in restrictive, highly bureaucratic programs known as "categoricals." As part of his mix of cuts and tax increases to fill the giant budget hole over the next two years, Schwarzenegger has proposed to give temporary flexibility on these programs to help offset education cuts. He would allow school districts to transfer nearly $15.7 billion in categorical programs to general purposes.
CTA has picked on one categorical program for its ad campaign: the $1.3 billion that goes to reducing class sizes in kindergarten and grades 1-3. The ad ominously claims that the governor and some "Sacramento politicians" are using the budget crisis as "an excuse to abolish our successful class-size reduction program." It implies falsely that the governor and legislators want to "permanently increase class sizes."
The ad also takes a mean-spirited swipe at local superintendents and school principals, saying there's no assurance that local administrators would "spend the money in the classroom" – implying that administrators care less about students than do teachers.
Today, the state pays school districts $1,071 yearly per student for kindergarten through third-grade classes if they maintain an average of 20 students or fewer per teacher.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.