Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, January 10, 2005

I Guess We'd Better Buy More Lottery Tickets

Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plan was released today. The education portion of it is what we all predicted: when faced with the choice of raising taxes or hurting California's already beleaguered schools, he has chosen the latter.

Last year, Schwarzenegger got education officals to suspend Prop 98 to give $2 billion to the general fund, with the understanding they would be repaid. Now, not only is he not repaying it, but he wants to suspend Prop 98 again. Naturally, educators are crying foul. In his defense, the governor argues that in his budget overall spending on schools will still increase (though it is unclear if this is in real dollars).

The 800-pound gorilla standing in the room that nobody wants to talk about is Prop 13. Tax cuts are not free: they are darned expensive. They're costing the future of California's children. I think the Democrats can make the argument--if they are bold enough--that this is too high a price to pay.


Raised By Republicans said...

As an instructor at a major state university in California, I often get students complaining to me about how hard it is to get enrolled in classes.

You see, in the last several years it has become extremely difficult actually get slots in classes EVEN IN YOUR OWN MAJOR at CSU's and UC's. Sure, you're admitted but just try to complete the requisite number of credits in 4 or even 5 years. There simply aren't enough slots in the classes.

When students complain that can't get in because the class is full I say I'm sorry and its happening all over campus. When they ask why I say, "Because your parents never voted against tax cuts or for increases in university funding." Or words to that effect. If I'm feelilng especially bitter I'll add "and you don't vote at all."

Here is the problem:

Step 1: Arnold et al cut deals to cut unversity budgets by 30% or 40% several times over two years (even making mid year cuts to operating funds! and mid year increases to fees and tuition!).

Step 2: The unversity and departments have less money

Step 3: Departments hire fewer teaching faculty (like myself and Dr. Von Brawn)

Step 4: Departments with fewer faculty have to offer fewer classes

Step 5: Departments hire fewer graduate teaching assistants

Step 6: Since there is a TA contract that mandates maximum sizes for discussion sections, fewer TAs means fewer discussion sections so the departments have to make the classes they do offer smaller.

Von Brawn and I were actually bitching to each other about this over lunch. We agreed the root of the problem was that everyone thinks taxes are a top 3 issue (in terms of importance) but few people rank education that highly, especially at the unviersity level.

I think I'm agreeing with Dr. Strangelove and LTG here that the biggest problems in California are:

1: Prop 13
2: Refusal to even marginally increase income taxes
3: Continued increases in spending on prisons despite Arnold's repeated accusation that Gray Davis was a slave to the prison guards.

US West said...

Just a general comment: Californians are feeling under siege these days. We were wined and dined in the Clinton years and now we are being beaten and whored in the Bush years. We are over-populated and we have special challenges that other states don't face, such as large populations of immigrants. But we are also responsible for continuing to keep a poor governing system. I think we should trash the whole thing and start all over. Have any of you tried looking at CA's state constitution? Talk about a mess!

That having been said, RBR is correct. Most of the emphasis on education in this state has been placed on elementary and high school education. The state has historically spent more per prisoner than per student. It is a cruel irony. That having been said, what elementary and high school education has that higher education doesn't is powerful teachers’ unions.

These unions got tired of seeing school coffers raided. So in the late 1990s, they used the initiative process to lock in a guaranteed 40% of the general fund for education. Others got on board for their special projects so that the state legislature has little room to adjust to changing budget needs. Over 60% of the state's general fund is pre-allocated according to law, laws that were proposed and passed through the initiative process. Even then, CA teachers are some of the most poorly paid in the country.

Higher education funding has been in trouble for over 15 years in this state with tuition and fees going up every year. We were protesting fee hikes at CSU when I was in undergrad 10 years or more ago. And what has changed is that demand for higher education is increasing while supply is decreasing. In fact, I would tell my child that trying to get into a high quality CA school is useless. There is still room in the CSU system, but even the big CSUs are in trouble. Even the most competitive students don't get into UCs. Getting good grades, maxing out on the SAT, and being given the key to your city won't get you into CAL. In fact, the whole admissions process seems arbitrary. But I digress. My point is, more CA students will have to go out of state and that may mean a future brain drain from the state.

Not only do we have to tackle Prop 13, we have to tackle the entire legislative system. I am nearly ready to trash the initiative process altogether since it has been hijacked by special interests. And we have to start demanding that Washington send us our fair share of funding. We only get something like 60 cents for every dollar we sent while places like Wyoming get 90 cents or something along those lines.