Prop Zero
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New Budget May Cost the Next Generation Dearly

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Governor Jerry Brown has asked the legislature to enact a balanced budget within the first sixty days of the new year.

    He gave the deadline so that legislators and the public will have a realistic look at what the state will provide with its meager revenues.

    No area will be hurt as much as K-12 public education and community colleges, which receive about 40 percent of the state's financial commitment courtesy of a ballot proposition passed by the voters about 20 years ago. But given the size of the budget, the next allocation will be more paltry than ever.

    For some perspective, consider this: During the current fiscal year, the state is spending $36.5 billion for these education categories, down from $56.6 billion three years ago. And this year's allocation will be considerably less.

    What are we getting for that commitment? Not much, as might be expected. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, California ranks 49th of the 50 states in the ratio of students per teacher, 49th in students per counselor, and 50th in students per librarian.

    As for those who believe that education funds are spent disproportionately on bureaucrats, the same source ranks California 47th in students per administrator.

    Worse yet, these data are for the the 2007-2008 academic year (the last available). Most of the drop in spending has occurred since that time, which only means that California is falling even further behind the other states.

    No spending reduction is pleasant but in the case of public education, these dollars are perhaps the most important allocation made by the state. Schools prepare students for their livelihoods as adults. They provide badly needed skill sets that students get nowhere else. Without a solid education, many drop out, others graduate with little ability to do anything but the most menial work, and others still find themselves uncompetitive with high school graduates from other states seeking university admission.

    The governor wants us to weigh these facts as we learn about the upcoming budget. From there the question will be, do we accept these incredible reductions or do we bite the bullet and agree to new taxes?

    The answer will be intriguing for it will tell us much about our commitment to the next generation.