2011 – Challenges and Hopes
2011 promises to be an interesting year. Jerry Brown is the Governor. Tom Torlakson is the SPI. There are new members of the education committees in both the Assembly and Senate. There are new players in the education landscape such as the recently established non-profit known as CORE, composed of seven of the more forward thinking, high-profile districts in the state. And there is a giant budget deficit with no prospect of a federal bail out (with Republicans now in charge of the House). In fact, the talk coming from the Republicans is about cutting the education budget, not adding to it.
Brown is expected to propose more cuts to K-12 and higher education when he comes out with his January budget. And with the loss of two years of federal funds to plug holes, a lot of districts will be in deep doo-doo (as a former President used to say).
The Governor is likely to put two options on the table to fix this problem for districts – more categorical flexibility – and a ballot initiative to raise taxes to bolster public education. The question that needs to be asked about both options is this – who benefits from them? If the answer is students, then I’m all for both. But if the answer is the adults that are dependent on school systems serving as glorified jobs programs with terrible results for students, than the answer is no. Categorical flexibility is great when it’s used in districts with leadership focused on improving student performance. But that’s not always the case. More dollars for public education is great if it’s used to help struggling students and retain vital progams. But not if its used to support underfunded pensions or unsustainable salary and benefit levels. The bottom line is dollars for the students first. They are the future of California.
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