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Should Education Be Exempt from Budget Cuts
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 4/10/08

There is a prevailing view amongst California’s powerful education bureaucracy that teachers, schools and educational programs in general are sacrosanct and must be shielded from any budget cuts regardless of the severity of the latest of the state’s recurring budget crises. To this end, it has spared no effort to convince Californians that school closures or consolidations, teacher layoffs or, indeed, any proposed reductions to funding for education would be catastrophic and that our children and society would suffer irreparable harm. Children are portrayed as the pathetic victims of such mean-spirited proposals and the kids are paraded shamefully in the public view carrying their little signs reading “save our schools” or “save our teachers”.

It is, of course, outrageous that children would be used in a political role as pawns and props designed to influence voters to support the interests of organized professional educators. Using parents in their political battles is one thing. Parents, at least, are adults, able to make rational choices as to what public services and benefits should or should not be cut in order to live within our means. It is quite another thing to use innocent children to fight these battles and their teachers and parents should be ashamed for allowing them to be thus exploited.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

It’s obvious from their happy expressions that’s it’s mostly a game to the kids and that they are essentially naïve with respect to the actual issues, as indeed, they should be. In any event, it’s highly unlikely that their teachers exposed them to both sides of the argument. You can be certain, however, that they were exposed to the educators’ point of view.

As everyone knows, the budget situation in Sacramento has again has reached crisis proportions. Liberal California legislators have an ingrained habit of spending more than the state receives in revenue. The obvious solution is to spend less but that’s not what liberal legislators tend to do. The situation is aggravated by California’s boom or bust economy featuring periods of great prosperity when tax revenues exceed expectations. Rather than recognizing that these periods are temporary and using surpluses as reserves for the inevitable downturns in the economy, Sacramento liberals just increase spending as if the good times were bound to last forever.

The last time that the state faced a massive budget deficit, liberal governor Gray Davis was recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected on a promise to restore fiscal order. But it is easier promised than done in a state so dominated by special interest groups like the teachers’ and state employees’ unions. The state, which ranks as the world’s eighth largest economy, is again at the familiar brink and the governor has mandated ten percent cuts virtually across the board. They may not be enough and a combination of additional targeted cuts and tax increases may become necessary. Californians are already one of the most heavily taxed state populations in the nation.

It’s understandable that educators will lobby hard to protect their budgets and jobs but it is irresponsible for them to predict that cuts in funding will cause chaos and catastrophe. This tactic is based on the same notion that any problem in education can be solved by throwing more money at it. Where is the research that supports this? And where is the research that shows that smaller class size results in superior student performance? Why is it that girls tend to outperform boys and Orientals to outperform other races in student achievement, regardless of class size or school funding?

Myths perpetuated by educators cannot be taken as truths without supporting research. Educators are hardly impartial on these matters. They demonstrate their biases when they instinctively reject, out of hand, proposals for school choice, merit pay and promotion and mandatory student testing. While no one questions the value and dedication of most teachers, they are simply not objective on issues of funding and reform.

Nor are they to blame for most of the problems with student progress and achievement, or rather, the lack thereof. The role of parenting and the importance of a stable home environment where academic performance is valued, encouraged and expected have been amply demonstrated.  Family stability in this country is declining, especially among African-Americans where over half the births are out of wedlock. Family instability and a culture which increasingly values proficiency in sports and entertainment more than academic achievement are what are causing our kids to fail in school and to drop out at alarming rates. It bodes ill for the future of our nation in an increasingly competitive and technically complex world. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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