When we were young, our parents would ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many of us would throw out random ideas such as being an astronaut, a firefighter, a doctor or a teacher. We grew up with the notion that we could become anything as long as we studied hard, paid attention in class and got good grades. Education was the foundation for our future, and it was a promising road.
Flash-forward to today. The future, simply put, is not so bright any more.
The economic downturn has not been good for education in California. Over the last two years, general fund spending for K-12 schools has dropped from $46.2 billion to $36.8 billion in fiscal year 2010-2011. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that K-12 school budgets will be cut by another $79.6 million, and the public school transportation budget slashed by $248 million. To date, the cuts have resulted in the layoffs of 30,000 teachers and 10,000 support staff, larger class sizes, fewer school days due to furloughs, and the loss of arts and music programs, among many other changes.
In the realm of higher education, the cuts to community college districts and the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems have been substantial — UC and USC both lost $650 million in funding to their budgets for the 2011-2012 school year; community colleges lost $400 million. This, of course, resulted in tuition and fee hikes, some as much as 21 percent for UC student, and cuts to programs and courses. In turn, enrollment has gone down, either because students can’t afford the tuition increases or because universities and colleges are accepting fewer students and offer fewer classes. Along with the K-12 cuts announced on Tuesday, an additional $100 million will be cut from both UC and CSU midyear budgets and another $72 million for community college districts. (Actual figures seem to vary, apparently depending on interpretation on different sources, but all agree there are substantial cuts.) Surely nothing but bad news will come of this.
To the average bystander, it would appear that educating the next generation seems to be of little importance. Though the quality of education in California isn’t the worst, it is far from the top, compared to other states. And in comparison to other countries, America should be ashamed as it falls well behind other countries in test scores, according to numerous studies and reports.
In essence, the next generation is, sadly, being set up for failure; and apparently, too many Californians don’t care or, surely, they aren’t complaining to their legislators. Though some argue that no one should be obligated to pay for the welfare of another, there is no way to ignore the fact that we are all in this together; and should we continue to deprive the next generation of the education it deserves, then all of our futures are dismal. To fight against this rapid decline in education, contact Gov. Brown at gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php and/or State Superintendent of Education at the California Department of Education website. If we don’t speak up, no one will.