Recently in Public Education Category

Over at Calitics there is an interesting diary from 'zeroh8' asking "Why Are We Spending So Much More?"  zeroh8 looked at the changes over the last ten years in how the state spends money.  The result, according to the diary, is a per-capita increase of $1088 as follows:

California Government Department
2007-08 less 1997-98 Per Capita Spending

Criminal Justice $185
General Government $14
Health $265
Higher Education $109
K-12 Education $399
Resources & Environmental Protection $27
Social Services $59
Transportation $30
Total $1,088 

Robert Cruikshank commented that the appearance of an education spending increase is an illusion, (sadly California still ranks 47th in education spending-per-pupil)

Much of the "increase" in K-12 funds is illusory. When Arnold cut the VLF in 2003 that money had to be backfilled by the state. That backfilling is listed on the books as "spending" and so it appears as a huge "spending increase" when in fact it is no such thing. Schools didn't actually get more money. It's an accounting trick.

Robert is pointing out that this appearance of a large increase in education spending is actually just replacing spending that was already there, but that was cut from local budgets when Governor Schwarzenegger cut the Vehicle License Fee, so the state had to make up (backfill) the loss.  The state is spending more because local governments are spending less, but the total hasn't increased.  Lesson: you have to look at the whole picture including local budgets to see the whole story because the state has to step in when local governments lose their funding sources.

Health care spending increases are certainly not isolated to California state government.  This is the health care crisis that is eating up government, business and family budgets around the country.  So far We, the People, in our wisdom, had avoided the kind of "socialized medicine" that the rest of the world has, which means we spend vastly more for health care with vastly worse results.  There is little California can do about it, except to further deny health care to people.  Is that the kind of people we will decide to be? 

Then there is that huge increase in criminal justice (prison) spending.  Was that necessary?  Well, we decided to pass laws that put people in prison for life for stealing a pizza or for years for smoking a joint.  And in the last few decades we have cut education spending, which to some extent has necessitated the increases in prison spending, because we know where that inevitably leads,

"18-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts have an incarceration rate 31 times that of males who graduated from a four-year college"      
We're seeing the health care crisis eating the state budget, and the problem of the prison costs.  Part of our problems today are because yesterday we were "penny wise and pound foolish," saving some money by cutting education only to spend it on prisons (and who knows how many other ways) later.  Along with foolish tax cuts like cutting the VLF, and cutting property taxes for big corporations, and instead borrowing which has led to huge interest payments, those are the spending problems that brought about the budget crisis and that keep our government from being able to spend more on things We, the People need.

About those choices:  zeroh8 did a ton of research because no California citizen would know any of this from sources available to most of us.  The corporate media is not explaining the state budget and the functions of government to the public.  The example of the state making up local revenue losses in order to save our schools is a great example -- instead it is just presented to people that the state is "spending even more".

So what is the point of this exercise? To give the people the facts, not the phony sound-bites designed to further anger people against government and rail even further about having to pay taxes to fund the programs and services. The goal of the conservatives is to simply unfund government, thus making "We the People" powerless against the big moneyed interests -- the people who brought you the sub-prime fiasco, the Wall Street boondogles, the Haliburton no-bid contracts and the Blackwater mercenaries.  As long as the bucks are flowing, what do they care if government can't do its job.... what do they care about long lines at the DMV, wildfires that burn down communities, gangs that take over our streets and oh, yes......swine flu epidemics that kill millions?  They can just fly away in their private jets or sail away on their yachts -- that california won't tax.


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Who Is Our Government For?

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dday, writing in Giving Away The Tax Argument at Digby's Hullabaloo blog, asks why so many California newspapers have "tax increase calculators" but no calculators that show people how much the budget cuts affect them.
In my life, I have never seen a "spending cut calculator," where someone could plug in, say, how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and discover how much they stand to lose in THAT equation. Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being "taken away" for nothing. A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

[. . . The media already highlights the tax side of the equation over spending, dramatically portraying tax increases while relegating spending cuts to paragraph 27. It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate. And it's completely irresponsible.

In Why Are Public Assets Being Cut Right When We Need Them Most? Jay Walljasper, of OnTheCommons.org wonders why public transit, libraries and other things the government does for us are all being cut at exactly the time people need them? As the economy turns downward more people need to take the train or bus, or use the library. Jay makes the connection,
Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, proposes closing the state's budget gap by reducing corporate taxes and slashing state aid to local governments. This will mean painful cuts in public assets, such as transit and libraries.

. . . This loss of our public assets is an alarming threat to our society. The things we all own in common and depend upon--libraries, transit, parks, water systems, schools, public safety, infrastructure, cultural programs, social services--are being gradually but steadily undermined.

For many years I have been blogging at Seeing the Forest, often coming back to a question, "Who is our economy for?" For some time now regular incomes have stagnated, while incomes at the very top just go up and up. The GDP keeps rising, productivity keeps going up, but regular people see less and less of the benefit of this increase. In fact, if you look at charts and data, the stagnation of incomes started almost exactly at the same time as President Reagan took office and started implementing the corporate agenda of anti-tax and anti-government policies. So is this a coincidence?

Throughout human history we have seen one scheme after another wherein a few people seize power and devise a system to hold it and use it to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. This is human nature and through history we have seen it happen over and over.

America formed in reaction to the British monarchy's exploitation of its people. We, the People formed our government to band together and protect each other from attempts by the powerful few to exploit us. Our Constitution was supposed to be include a system of checks and balances to account for the nature of power.

It is time for the people to take back that power and use it to again benefit each other. And it is time for California's newspapers to do something for We, the People and include a "budget cuts calculator" as well as tax increase calculator. It is just as important, maybe more so, that we all understand how we're injuring and jeopardizing our future with the budget cuts the Republicans required in this year's budget negotiations.


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The key to California's successful business environment are education and infrastructure.  It is not an accident that our semiconductor and computer and Internet industries, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical and genetic engineering and our other world-class competitive industries developed in California instead of in "low tax" states like Mississippi and Alabama.  These industries thrived here because of our well-educated people and our modern, well-maintained infrastructure. 

There has been a dramatic wealth-building return on our investment in education and infrastructure.  Investors could count on California as a good place to start and grow a business, and it has paid off.

But how much would it cost if businesses had to pay fair market value for use of the infrastructure that We, the People built?  What would it cost if companies had to pay the full education cost every time they hire someone who was educated at a California public school or state college or university? 



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One more attempt to get a state budget in place collapsed -- blocked by the Republicans because it included tax increases. Republicans insist that the budget be balanced with billions and billions of dollars in cuts in our schools and fire protection and the other things most of us want our state to do.

I would bet that most of California's public doesn't know what is going on with our budget. They only know that there isn't one, and that this is causing problems. It makes people angry, and causes them to lose faith in government.

People know that government employees are being forced to take pay cuts, and many are being laid off. But they really do not know why.

Yesterday's budget vote was 45-30. The public doesn't understand that this means that there were forty-five votes FOR the budget and only thirty votes against, and this is why it failed. They don't understand that because it does not make sense. But because of a trick that the Republicans were able to play on the public the rules are that it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. So an overwhelming vote of 45-30 FOR the budget means that the budget does NOT pass!

Every Republican in the state has taken a vow not to raise taxes on wealthy corporations or massively wealthy individuals. They won't vote to require people who buy yachts or private jets to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay when we buy cars. They refuse to ask oil companies to pay fees when they take our oil out of the ground and sell it to us. (Maybe they understand that such a vote will dry up their campaign funding...)

News stories about the latest budget collapse:

San Jose News:

Although the $105.2 billion budget blueprint garnered a majority vote, 45-30, it fell short of the two-thirds supermajority that California's constitution requires to pass a budget.

. . . The vote "shows clearly that we're not going to vote for taxes," said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno.


Wall Street Journal:
"We're fundamentally saying 'no tax increases,'" said Mike Villines, the Assembly Republican leader.

They will require workers to take pay cuts and layoffs. They will cut our school budgets. They will cut transportation, the DMV, road repair, law enforcement, prisons, fire protection. But they will not ask wealthy corporations or extremely wealthy individuals to pitch in.

And here is why: by and large California's public doesn't know this. They are not being informed that this is entirely because a small minority of Republicans refuse to represent the public's interests, choosing to represent the wealthy corporations and wealthiest few people.

In fact, the public likely believes that it is the Democrats who are keeping the budget from being passed. If you Google the word Democrat with the word obstruction and you get about 600,000 results. This is a national result, but it reflects the same strategy in use in California. Republicans spent years accusing Democrats of being "obstructionist" when they were not, as a strategy to pressure them to pass Republican-/corporate-oriented bills. Now, after blocking almost everything that the nation's Congress is doing, the Republicans are campaigning saying that the Democrats in Congress aren't passing anything! Meanwhile a new Drum Major Institute polls shows that 72% of middle-class Americans can't name a single bill passed by Congress in the last two years that benefited them or their families! (Minimum wage increase, stimulus package, college more affordable, SCHIP...)

Less than two in five (38%) middle-class respondents to the Drum Major Institute's new poll say they live comfortably. One-third (34%) say they meet their basic expenses each month with just a little left over for extras, while one-quarter (26%) of middle-class adults would say they just meet their basic expenses (17%) or have trouble meeting their basic expenses each month (9%). And, economy and jobs tops their concerns. They are pessimistic about the direction of the economy. They think it's more likely that Brangelina will celebrate their 25th anniversary than gas prices returning to $3 a gallon.

But they do not understand WHY. They don't make the connection between the corporate-controlled Republican party and what is happening to the country.

How do Republicans get away with this? How are they able to get the public to think so many things that are not true? The Republicans have a vast "noise machine" that tells the public things that are not true. (Remember how they were able to convince so many people that Iraq had attacked us on 9/11?) It costs a lot of money to have a noise machine like this, but they get the money from the very corporations and wealthy individuals whose interests they are representing. So it works for them.

Plain and simple, they are bale to reach the public and tell them stuff, and get the public to believe it. The use of overwhelming repetition is the tactic. I use the word “stuff” here with meaning: it’s just stuff they want the public to believe, with no grounding in reality. They do it, and here we are. Nationally the debt is approaching TEN TRILLION DOLLARS and they are still able to get the public to think taxes are bad. In California they are able to force layoffs and school cuts while refusing to make the ultra-rich pay even the same taxes the rest of us pay.

Please leave comments with suggestions on how to fight this.


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Conservative leader and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich writes about the California court ruling that children - even home-schooled children - must be educated by credentialed teachers, saying it is an example of "Judicial Supremacy." In his article he quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial calling the ruling a "strange new chapter" in the "annals of judicial imperialism." Later in the piece he writes,

The decision represents yet another case of a special interest -- in this case, the education unions and bureaucracy -- using the courts to get what they can't get through the popular vote.

This is yet another example of judicial supremacy: Rule by an out-of-control judiciary rather than the will of the people. It joins court rulings such as the removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance on a long list of usurpations of the freedom and self-determination of the American people.

Lets take a moment to examine what Gingrich is really complaining about here.

Here's how the American system of law and justice is supposed to work: We have a Constitution and we have laws that we are all supposed to follow by mutual agreement. And we have in place a judicial system for interpreting our Constitution and laws, again by mutual agreement. So when there is a dispute we take that dispute to the courts, and the judges rule according to the Constitution and laws. And then we agree to follow their rulings.

Newt Gingrich and the conservatives complain that this is "Judicial Supremacy" and "judicial imperialism." Wow, this sounds pretty bad! But look at the meaning of these negative-sounding words. Isn't "Judicial Supremacy" really just another way of saying that we agree to follow "rule of law?" When Gingrich uses language that casts a negative frame on the concept, isn't he undermining public respect for the rule of law? Gingrich and other conservatives are happy enough with our American system when it works in their favor but when it rules against their agenda they launch another anti-government screed.

This post is not written in opposition to home or private schooling, but to point out the importance to all of us that we all operate under the same set of agreed-upon rules. At least in California, another agreed-upon rule is that our children should receive the best possible education. Article 9 of our California Constitution states that a good education is "essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." The wording at the beginning of Article 9 is as follows:

A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
To this end Article 9 describes how California will manage a system of free, public schools. And Article 9 makes it clear that to this end our children deserve qualified, "credentialed" teachers.

Once again, We, the People of California have decided that a good education is "essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." This is what we want. Just what is it that Gingrich and other conservatives want instead if it doesn't involve qualified teachers providing education to our state's children?

Note - Gingrich also criticized court rulings mandating the "removal" of the phrase "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. But this misrepresents what the courts ruled. The courts ruled that public schools cannot force children to recite this pledge. It violates our Constitution's clause against our having a government mandated religion to make children repeat that this is a nation "under God." It also raises a question of just what he does want our Constitution to say. Does he want the government to mandate that we follow a particular religion? His writings suggest this to be the case.


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Tuesday's post began,

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country's oil wealth.

In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state's oil wealth.

But in California the big oil companies get to pump our oil from the ground for free, and then sell it back to us. Right now these oil companies are reaping the highest profits of any industry ever in history, making a few people immensely wealthy, and are not giving back any of this wealth to We, the People of California!

Our state's budget reflects our priorities and our values. So I wrote that We, the People of California should ask big oil companies to give back some of the immense wealth they are generating for themselves with our oil, so we can fully fund our California schools. I honestly did not know that Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez was about to introduce a bill to do just that. Well, he did, along with a windfall oil profits tax, and this is what happened:

The bill, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was defeated on the Assembly floor after Republicans refused to vote for the new taxes.
These are choices, and the people of California need to understand that a choice was made yesterday to continue to be the only state that allows oil companies to pump our oil and not pay anything for it. And instead of asking the rich oil companies to give back a bit they want to cut the school budget by another 10%.

Republicans said the bill was a publicity stunt, saying Democrats know that no taxes can pass as long as there is a rule allowing just a few Republicans to block the will of the vast majority. They mocked the effort as an "oil drill."

"I think this truly is a political drill on the eve of the layoff notices that will go out all across the state and on the eve of (the legislative) spring break when we will be at home in our districts talking to our constituents," Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said during the Assembly floor debate that lasted about three hours.
But do the people of California understand this? Do they realize that just a few votes can allow oil companies to get their oil free, while their children face ever-worsening schools? We need more "publicity stunts" to help them understand the different values and priorities that are being reflected. Politics and life are all about our priorities, not just our choices. What is more important to our people: rich oil companies or well-educated kids?

A choice is being made here, priorities and values are being expressed: cut our schools by 10% rather than ask rich oil companies to give back just a bit. Say it over and over, and then do something about it. Write to your legislators and demand they ask the wealthiest to start giving back a bit.

And remember, this is an election year. This is the time when citizens can do something about it when their legislators are not responding. This is the time that you can remove legislators who give wealthy oil companies tax breaks while cutting school budgets. You can volunteer to work in election campaigns, and go from door to door in their districts, letting voters know that their legislator made a choice and voted to cut school budgets while giving tax breaks to oil companies.

Help spread the word!


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Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a "fiscal emergency" and is asking the legislature to solve the problem entirely with budget cuts. He has asked for 10% "across-the-board" cuts which at first glance seems to sound fair, but really means avoiding decisions about what budget items are the most important. It means cutting schools 10%. And law enforcement. And medical care. (Of course, they can't cut the interest owed on Governor Schwarzenegger's past borrowing.)

And more than that -- much, much more than that -- it is a trick that leaves out the fact that the state is not collecting needed tax revenue because of loopholes that let big corporations and the wealthy off the hook while the rest of us make up the difference.

It's time to draw a line in the sand and demand that our state government not cut the budget for our children's education any more.

Isn't there a lot of "fat" in the budget, just waiting to be cut? Most people think so. But think about this -- every time the state has a shortfall they cut spending, saying they are cutting out the "fat." As a result, in the decades since Proposition 13 passed they have trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and we now are long past the point where there is anything left to cut. In fact, today California schools have the lowest number of administrators per student of any state. Our schools have squeezed and squeezed and dropped programs and forgone pay raises and they can't operate any more efficiently.

I was listening to a radio show the other night, someone from the San Francisco schools said this budget cut could mean they have to have 61 students per classroom.

But the Republicans in the legislature won't let us talk about taxes -- not even the yacht tax loophole. You and I have to pay sales taxes but people who buy yachts and private jets do not. They keep California as the only state that won't tax the oil companies for the oil they pump out from our state. They won't find a way to make commercial property owners pay market-rate property taxes.

The Governor and a Republican minority in the Assembly and Senate are still willing to block all alternatives to cutting teachers and health care and roads and parks and those things that We, the People call our government.

So it is time to draw a line in the sand. No more cuts. It is time to ask the corporations and wealthy to start giving back some of the incredible wealth they have made off of the physical, legal and financial infrastructure that We, the People of California put in place that enabled their gains in the first place.

Here are steps you can take to help fight back:

First, join us. Click this link and join Speak Out California. This way we can keep you up to date on our activities, including our activities to help keep our schools funded.

Next, start Speaking Out yourself, writing letters to the editor and contacting your legislators, demanding that the state enact alternatives to budget cuts, like closing tax loopholes and making wealthy people pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay.

The California Teachers Association provides a web page that helps you find the correct contact information for your state legislators. Please write to your legislators.

The Education Coalition has a website with facts to help you make your points. Give them a visit, too.

And finally, this is Speak Out California's fundraising month. Help us out so we can continue the work we are doing. Help us keep the progressive voice alive.


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Political Suicide

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Conventional wisdom considers it political suicide for a candidate to talk about the need to raise taxes so the state can pay its bills -- especially if it involves reforming Proposition 13.

Much of the public thinks that government "spends too much" and that much of the state's budget goes to "waste, fraud and abuse."

Much of the pubic also thinks that the primary beneficiaries of Prop. 13 were little old ladies who otherwise would lose their homes to increasing property taxes.

Reality, rarely consulted, understands things very differently.

California faces another budget crisis. The Governor proposes solving the problem with budget cuts.

California's budget pays teachers, fights crime, maintains roads and bridges and other necessary activities. There simply is no room for cuts to balance the budget. In fact, budget cuts just make following year shortfalls worse. If you lay off teachers they aren't paying taxes. If you don't fix roads the economy gets worse. In the long term, if you don't educate kids employers move jobs to states and countries that do. And, of course, it is always a really bad idea to cut back on police and courts -- especially after years and years of cuts in education.

Budget cuts don't work, so how about the modern solution to budget problems? I mean, of course, just borrowing the needed money. But Governor Schwarzenegger proved that the state can't borrow its way out of budget crunches: A major reason for this year's budget problems is the interest owed on Schwarzenegger's past easy fixes of issuing bonds.

The reality is that the budget cannot be fixed with budget cuts or more borrowing. We need to increase taxes. We need to start by reforming Proposition 13, raising corporate taxes, closing tax loopholes and taxing oil that is pumped from the ground. If we decide to do these things we might find that we not only fix California's budget problems for good, we might even be able to lower income taxes.

Reality also shows that the major beneficiaries of Proposition 13 were not little old ladies but large commercial real estate holders. It would be so easy to put a "little old lady" exception into property tax rules so they are not forced from their homes. But it would be political suicide to even discuss reforming Proposition 13 because of the power of the large commercial real estate owners. They want their tax break and don't care if the whole state goes broke and everyone else suffers. They are able to put a lot more money into the election process than regular people. That is why it is political suicide to talk about raising property taxes.

Why is it political suicide for a candidate to propose ways to fix problems, but not political suicide to cause them or make them worse?

A lot of people say they want a candidate who tells it like it is. But really, that would be political suicide.


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Do taxes drive California's economy? An analysis by the Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream's Senior Fellow Dave Johnson:

The governor says California is in a budget crisis. He says we need to cut the state's spending "across-the-board," and the Republicans insist that tax increases and other alternatives are off the table. The media largely seem to be going along with taking discussion of alternatives off the table, and consequently Democrats are too intimidated to bring them up.

But what they are missing is that taxes drive the economy.

Tax-cut proponents say that increasing taxes on the wealthy "takes money out of the economy." I wonder where they think the money goes? Do they think it just goes up into the air and disappears?


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NO 2nd Grade Testing!

A couple of years back, while I was Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, we made a deal with the Governor. And now, he wants to back out of it! I guess that should come as no surprise, since he seems to only make deals for a short term gain, and chooses not to follow through with the parts he doesn't like.

The deal was that the budget would pass and with it would be a commitment that California would end testing seven year olds with high stakes, standardized tests.

Why did the legislative majority require California to get out of the business of " testing" seven year olds? Was it because we don't want them to learn? Is it because we don't think they can learn? Or is it that we just don't want to hold teachers and schools " accountable" ?

Well, actually, it is not for any of those alleged reasons. We, as a legislative body, decided that labeling very young children as " failures" was probably not going to help them love learning, and was indeed cruel and unusual punishment.


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Public Education category.

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