What California needs to keep a thriving middle class is solid support for public education says a San Luis Obispo educational professional.
California has had the most massive cuts in public education over the last three years and reductions will not impact just the next class but the next generation, said Mark Buchman, San Luis Coastal Unified School District member.
San Luis Coastal began their 2010/11 school year August 20. Yet according to published reports the district sustained $8 million in cuts for this year.
But back in the 1960s California outspent every state by 10 percent for per pupil funding, noted Buchman. And the state had the highest test scores then. Despite enthusiasm over the emerging green technology (solar, wind, geo-thermal) it is not going to flourish in California because the state lacks an educated work force, he cautioned.
“Because of the investment of education in the 1960s California was able to nurture the Internet boom of the 1980s and 90s. But now we’re in the worst financial situation we’ve seen since the 1930s.”
And students are losing out on health care and families on unemployment benefits. These are programs that many know succeed in getting people back to self-sufficiency and grow the economy again, Buchman said.
“I supported Obama (election) but I’m not happy about public education or how the stimulus package (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) bailed out banks and auto manufacturers yet gave public education a pittance.”
California is 47th in per pupil spending investing just $8,000 annually versus $18,000 per-pupil spending in Rhode Island and New Jersey, according to the National Education Association.
Until four years ago, California was approaching the average expenditure for education among the states yet was still thousands less than the top states, Buchman said. Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to spend $65 million on a new state prison which is hard to comprehend, he added.
“It’s my understanding that those in prison without a high school diploma is in the 90 percent range. It doesn’t take a whole lot of thinking to figure out if California worked harder at education a lot of those people would not be in jail.”
He went on to say that for every $1 the state puts into education it receives a return-on-investment of $6 to $7. But the most important aspect to note is that the more people attain higher education the fewer social services are needed and the more vibrant the tax base is.
During this economic crisis the state has given corporations a tax cut in order to get a state budget passed. That type of approach is known as the “trickle down” theory that dates from the Reagan Administration, Buchman said. The idea is if corporations get tax cuts they will use it to build new factories and hire more people, he explained.
“What positive effect has California seen from those tax breaks? … What we have now is the highest unemployment rate I can remember.”
He admits the state needs to vigorously scrutinize for wasteful spending yet it also has neglected maximizing revenue enhancement. There are approximately 100 tax loopholes that could replenish the state’s general fund if they were closed, he noted.
Buchman said, he supports an oil extraction tax, which practically every other state has. And he favors a luxury tax on big ticket items such as yachts or airplanes. But he also would extend benefits to businesses that hire graduates by granting a specified government incentive for those providing jobs in particular occupations.
Now more than ever adults need to become politically involved regardless of party affiliation, Buchman urged. He likened the current economy to a case of a child crossing the street who is about to be hit by a car but can be rescued by a helping hand
“Same thing is happening with public education. Parents need to reach out and save the children by saving education. They need to go to the city council, the board of supervisors, board of education, state and federal representatives and say; we need to save public education.”
Photo Caption: Mark Buchman, San Luis Coastal Unified School District member, interrupts his coffee break at the Blackhorse Café to advocate for public education.