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March 5, 2008

A Line In The Sand -- Stop Cutting School Budgets

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a “fiscal emergency” and is asking the legislature to solve the problem entirely with budget cuts. He has asked for 10% “across-the-board” cuts which at first glance seems to sound fair, but really means avoiding decisions about what budget items are the most important. It means cutting schools 10%. And law enforcement. And medical care. (Of course, they can't cut the interest owed on Governor Schwarzenegger's past borrowing.)

And more than that -- much, much more than that -- it is a trick that leaves out the fact that the state is not collecting needed tax revenue because of loopholes that let big corporations and the wealthy off the hook while the rest of us make up the difference.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and demand that our state government not cut the budget for our children's education any more.

Isn't there a lot of "fat" in the budget, just waiting to be cut? Most people think so. But think about this -- every time the state has a shortfall they cut spending, saying they are cutting out the "fat." As a result, in the decades since Proposition 13 passed they have trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and we now are long past the point where there is anything left to cut. In fact, today California schools have the lowest number of administrators per student of any state. Our schools have squeezed and squeezed and dropped programs and forgone pay raises and they can’t operate any more efficiently.

I was listening to a radio show the other night, someone from the San Francisco schools said this budget cut could mean they have to have 61 students per classroom.

But the Republicans in the legislature won't let us talk about taxes -- not even the yacht tax loophole. You and I have to pay sales taxes but people who buy yachts and private jets do not. They keep California as the only state that won't tax the oil companies for the oil they pump out from our state. They won't find a way to make commercial property owners pay market-rate property taxes.

The Governor and a Republican minority in the Assembly and Senate are still willing to block all alternatives to cutting teachers and health care and roads and parks and those things that We, the People call our government.

So it is time to draw a line in the sand. No more cuts. It is time to ask the corporations and wealthy to start giving back some of the incredible wealth they have made off of the physical, legal and financial infrastructure that We, the People of California put in place that enabled their gains in the first place.

Here are steps you can take to help fight back:

First, join us. Click this link and join Speak Out California. This way we can keep you up to date on our activities, including our activities to help keep our schools funded.

Next, start Speaking Out yourself, writing letters to the editor and contacting your legislators, demanding that the state enact alternatives to budget cuts, like closing tax loopholes and making wealthy people pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay.

The California Teachers Association provides a web page that helps you find the correct contact information for your state legislators. Please write to your legislators.

The Education Coalition has a website with facts to help you make your points. Give them a visit, too.

And finally, this is Speak Out California's fundraising month. Help us out so we can continue the work we are doing. Help us keep the progressive voice alive.

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 5, 2008 5:11 PM

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