In my last Purple is the New Party column, I didn’t take on Big Tobacco. Nor did I take on Wall Street. Did I take on the abortion debate? Nope. Instead of taking on the classic “Bigs,” I took on a group most of us don’t see as a threat; I took on Big Education. After a recent audit, the tax/people funded California State University system was found to be mishandling funds, creating unneeded parking fees, and hiking up tuition to create a $1.5 billion savings account/slush fund for rainy days.
While this issue can be debated on both sides, a few members of the CSU system wrote to us about how the presentation of facts was not correct. Their basic argument was that they were saving the taxpayers money without letting them know, and they were not happy that we perpetuated the story to our readers. One idea we must never forget is that the press must keep everyone from private businesses to tax-funded institutions accountable, or the idea of the freedom we celebrated this past 4th of July means nothing.
With the smell of fireworks still fresh in the air from last week’s birthday party for America, the concept of a free people is assisted by a free fourth estate. In a world where the President screams “fake news” on the air and in the Twitterverse, knowing the difference between what is fake and what is inconvenient to a sold narrative is extremely important. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, once said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” While no one likes their dirty undergarments waving across the pages of newspapers, if one wants a completely free society, they must let the writers of the world freely press down hard on their keyboards to keep those aware, so their freedoms are not infringed.
Too often, with institutions of nobility, they believe themselves impervious to criticism. Big Education is no exception. Ask anyone what frustrates them most about their educational experience, and many will tell you it was the pious behavior of those in education failing to admit they were wrong. Examples like teachers and professors refusing to admit they graded a paper or exam incorrectly, student services not processing paperwork or payments correctly, causing confusion and lost time correcting the mistake, or administrators forgoing the opportunity to admit they went beyond their limits in handling funds granted by local citizens and elected legislators.
With tax-funded institutions, truth is even more important. The press must let citizens know how their money is being spent. In a weird way, taxpayers are like the millionaire sharks on Shark Tank. We give our earnings to schools in hopes they spend our money correctly. It’s an investment into our community and future, and when we find out that the agreement is being altered through side accounts and surprise fees, we have every right to ask why.
All of us can agree that much of what the CSU system does is right. Yet, when they misstep, there must be accountability. There is only so much tax money collected and allocated, and society must evaluate what is best to give those funds to. If anything, the CSU system should be grateful that they were called to the floor, as this give them an opportunity to adjust their spending habits and practices.
When I was a teacher and professor, I had good students make mistakes. Most of them never thought their actions were wrong; in fact, many thought they were being responsible when they cheated because they were protecting their GPA or helping a friend by sharing answers. After we talked it over, they saw that the ends don’t justify the means.
No one is calling for the CSU system to be abolished or defunded. All that we want is make sure that as long they use our money, they keep it legit the whole time. Because if we wanted to be left in the dark on where our money is going, we’d donate to private schools that pay their football coaches more than their entire English departments.