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Dispelling The Myths About Education Funding
Versus the CTA...

[Tim Leslie] 7/28/05

After repeated attacks by the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the “Education Coalition,” Governor Schwarzenegger finally appears to be swinging into response mode. And the facts are on his side.

But that has not slowed the education union bosses from continuing to bend the truth. Earlier in the month, individuals sent out by the CTA and other union-affiliated groups plied the halls of the state capital armed with anti-Arnold talking points.

Tim Leslie

Tim Leslie represents California’s 4th Assembly District.

In my office, we were able to meet with many of these representatives. The interactions offered a great opportunity to listen, and also to dispel a few myths. We learned that many of these education advocates knew little about the Governor’s education funding or reform efforts. They had merely been provided a free flight or chartered bus to Sacramento, and then given the union-created rap sheet on how the Governor is out to hurt California schools.

We were surprised at how blatantly the union organizers had misled them. And since the same misinformation they were given is being fed to the general public, it is high time that we sort out fact from fiction.

Myth: The Governor is cutting funding to schools.

Fact: Schools will receive more money this year than ever before. Last year they received $50 billion; this year the Governor has proposed giving schools $53 billion. That means schools will receive $0.44 of every dollar the state takes in. What the union bosses are calling a “cut” simply means “less than they’d hoped for.”

Myth: Teachers in California are underpaid.

Fact: Most California teachers are tremendously devoted and hard working. They are also the highest paid teachers in the country. The average teacher’s salary is $56,283 and also includes an excellent benefits and retirement packages. If adjusted for the fact that this pay level is for nine months of work, the average salary tops $75,000 per year. Teachers definitely deserve a good salary and all the appreciation we can give, but it is hard to argue they are underpaid.

Myth: Public schools’ greatest need is more money.

Fact: Every state agency would like a larger budget. Most of us would, too. But we must always ask, “Are we using what we have well?” The truth is we are not. Simply pouring more money into a deeply flawed system will benefit bureaucrats and union wages, but will do little for our students. Some states, like Utah, have very modest school budgets yet deliver top results. Meanwhile, some of the highest spending areas, like Washington, D.C., produce dismal outcomes. Public schools’ greatest need is for the union bosses need to stop strangling every effort at reform.

Myth: The Governor did not give schools as much as the unions had hoped for because he doesn’t care about kids.

Fact: Even the union bosses don’t believe this lie. Governor Schwarzenegger is doing the best he can to restore California after the reckless spending sprees of Gray Davis and the Democratic Legislature. Of the $5 billion in new tax receipts for this year, the Governor’s January budget gave 60% to schools. With the May revision of the budget, the Governor has proposed increasing funding even further. It seems the only way one could qualify with the unions as “caring about education” would be to ignore all of California’s other needs, or else spend the state into bankruptcy

Will these facts ever break through the distortions that currently fill the public square? I don’t know. The union bosses have bet that Dr. William James, the Father of Modern Psychology, was right: “No matter how absurd, if you repeat something often enough people will believe it.”

I remain hopeful of better things. It sometimes takes a long time, but ultimately truth prevails. CRO




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