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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly]

Getting Their Priorities Straight
Superintendent of Public Instruction gets himself into the budget mess
[Ray Haynes] 7/22/03

Two events occurred this last week that demonstrate just what is wrong with California’s state government. First, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell suspended the high school exit exam. The exam would have made sure every twelfth grader has at least a tenth grade education upon graduation. Second, that same Superintendent decided to sue Republicans in the Legislature for holding the line on tax increases and trying to bring some sanity to the budget process and run-away spending. It is evident that Mr. O’Connell seems to be failing in his job as the head of our state schools, given the fact that forty percent of the twelfth graders in this state do not have a tenth grade education. Rather than focus on that, he decided to inject himself into the budget debate.

California under the reign of Gray Davis and his Democrat friends here in California is in a mess. The cost of housing has increased dramatically, commuters sit for hours in freeway gridlock, commodities such as water, gasoline, electricity and natural gas are in short supply because of our regulatory schemes, and now our budget is falling apart. So—what is the Governor’s response to this entire mess, blame the Republicans and ask the Superintendent of Public Instruction to sue us in the hopes of getting a solution without requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Mr. I-want-a-bipartisan-solution has decided to forget a constitutional solution and have the court make us do it. The Governor, of course, doesn’t have the guts to do it himself, so he put O’Connell up to it. O’Connell is a long-time Democrat legislator, whose votes in the Legislature helped create this mess. The Governor’s theory of the lawsuit is that the best way to get a solution to the budget crisis is to make sure fewer people are involved in the decision. The two-thirds vote requirement, which basically requires the Governor to consult with more people to obtain a budget agreement, is too onerous, if fewer people get input, the state will get a budget. It would be a bad budget, but they would get a budget.

Superintendent O’Connell just persuaded the State School Board to postpone the high school exit exam. We know about forty percent of the high school students set to graduate could not demonstrate that they know what a tenth grader ought to know. For years, while he was in the Legislature, O’Connell was the chair of the Senate Budget subcommittee, chief architect of how California’s schools were financed. We spend over $50 billion a year on schools. Since I have been in the legislature, the average spent per student has risen from $4200 per student to $8500 per student. We keep sending the system more and more money, but the product isn’t getting any better.

Now the man responsible for making the system work joins up with California’s most incompetent Governor, and sues the Legislature to avoid the Constitutional requirement of a two-thirds vote on the budget. Jack ought to worry about his own job. If he had done his job in the Legislature, or if he were doing his job as the Superintendent of Instruction, perhaps our children would actually have a twelfth grade education when they graduated from the twelfth grade.

Instead, he sues. O’Connell’s job is to make sure the schools are doing their job. It is not his job to sue the Republicans, who, quite frankly, are doing their job, trying to protect the taxpayers from wasteful government programs and misplaced government priorities. O’Connell’s lawsuit is just more proof of how the priorities of the ruling Democrats have gotten mixed up. He should do his job, we’ll do ours, and everything will work better. The reason things are not working now is that some of those leaders, like O’Connell, and his buddy, Gray Davis, are just not doing their job.


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