All Children Left Behind
"Education is the best investment," helpful advisors always tell prospective college students.
This sentiment, apparently, is not shared by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the face of an economic crisis, students were the first to suffer through program and tuition cuts. Now as the state undergoes one of the worst crises yet, the effects on the students could be devastating. In fact, the majority of spending cuts that Schwarzenegger proposes would be directed at schools, colleges, and universities.
It is hard enough being a student. At community colleges especially, many students have to balance their studies with work and family obligations. An increase in tuition, elimination of a night class, or a financial aid source could put some over the edge. In an interview two weeks ago (The Corsair, Nov. 14) Santa Monica College President Chui Tsang mentioned the possibility of a tuition increase to $30 per unit before this summer. Whatever the exact consequences be, Tsang said it will have a significant impact on the school.
Last week, the UC and CSU systems announced plans to cap enrollment of their freshman classes, which would likely have an effect of bringing more students to community college campuses. This influx could serve a source of revenue, or it could mean more students cramped into increasingly larger classrooms and programs short on staff and supplies.
High school students will also feel the pain. According to the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 29), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) could lose $440 million in budget cuts. LAUSD District Supt. David L. Brewer was quoted saying that the district would consider putting billboard on schools near freeways, to make up for revenue deficit.
At least high school is still doing what it's supposed to: preparing kids for college. With their spirits crushed early in the game, students in their desolation will not expect as much from their "college experience."
So what is the government doing about all this?
Apparently nothing. The budget battle has been going on for months, and it only feels more and more hopeless with each passing week.
Schwarzenegger has managed to come up with a plan that pissed off everyone: a tax hike here, a spending cut there, now everyone dislikes him even more (if such thing is possible).
Among the proposals: the aforementioned war on education, severe cuts to Medi-Cal services, car tax increase (the yearly registration fee), sales tax increase by 1.5 percent.
The sad part is the controversy in the state government over the proposed tax increases. People of California, during the Nov. 4 election, already showed their willingness to pay higher taxes for a good cause, even during economic hard times.
Voters have approved all three bond measures on the state ballot (Proposition 1A for high-speed rail, Proposition 3 for children's hospitals, and Proposition 12 for veteran assistance), Los Angeles County bond measures Q and J, sales tax increase measure R, and SMC renovation bond measure AA.
Most of these bond measures deal with education and infrastructure, and through the vote, the public showed its belief that the government should be spending more money on those causes. Why does the governor, then, try so hard to go against the wishes of the citizens?
One could argue that such cuts to education are inevitable due to such a giant deficit, over $11 billion. This gap, however, could have been smaller. Back in the summer, LA Times reported on the extremely high cost of firefighting in California.
Currently, after the fires raged over past weeks, the cost has exceeded its allocated budget of $236 million. State's fire policy has long been criticized for its inefficiency, not to mention dubious ecological soundness.
Also, the federal government and President George Bush have done us all a favor. The $700 billion bailout plan for banks and financial institutions also included a tax cut for banks, such as California-based Wells Fargo. The loss of this revenue will cost California up to $2 billion.
Thus the students were made sacrificial lambs of the economic crisis, all children left behind. Like the rest of the majority of population of this state and country we, the students, run the risk of losing jobs, housing, free time, if not having lost it already. Still I hope that we will not passively let our education be taken away.
We cannot surrender to the notion that the government is trying to impose on us; that we, the future of this country, have no future.