California Guv Strikes Fool's Gold in Search for Budget Cuts
More layoffs likely just as school year begins
By Cynthia McCabe
Cutting $17 billion from a state budget means that someone’s going to lose big time, and in California it’s been students, teachers, and Education Support Professionals. Now more bad news looms: even though Tuesday was the deadline for finalizing layoffs, another round of pink slips is likely coming in mid-August because of a state law that allows more layoffs if funding drops significantly.
Already, public education, which comprises 40 percent of the state budget, has born the brunt of more than 60 percent of the cuts this year. The state budget passed in February included $11.6 billion in cuts to schools and colleges by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and last month he submitted a revision that cuts an additional $6 billion.
"I fear that we will have less time with students because of class size increases," says Bakersfield, California, high school art teacher Jesse Aguilar, "and that those most in need will be allowed to fall through the ever-widening cracks."
Exacerbating the problem, voters rejected several key ballot proposals that would have helped plug the deficits. That rejection creates a $23 billion shortfall over the next four years for the state budget, and means even deeper cuts to education, children’s health care, public safety, and programs for seniors and the disabled, according to the California Teachers Association.
“He’s putting the state on the road to academic ruin,” said CTA President David Sanchez, in response to claims by Schwarzenegger that he was putting the state back on the road to prosperity.
The Association, which represents 340,000 educators, is fighting back against attempts to lay off 27,000 educators, counselors, and nurses and to prevent further elimination of art, music, sports, vocational education, dropout prevention programs, summer school, advanced placement courses, and adult education classes.
Educators are mobilized in the battle to get back crucial public education money, attending rallies like last month’s “Stand Up for Schools” event and contacting state lawmakers. Their message? Reject a cuts-only approach to closing the budget deficit, and create additional revenue by repealing tax breaks given to corporations earlier in the year.
It’s not just in California where educators are taking to the streets. From Idaho to Florida, they’re marching to show lawmakers that children and education professionals shouldn’t suffer for budget deficits.