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GUEST OPINION: Education cuts put burden on our kids’ future


Recent Press Democrat articles regarding school budgets and state tax revenue shortfalls appear to ask the question, would you rather the rack or a simple garroting?

Santa Rosa City Schools district is possibly facing an $8.3 million budget cut and is exploring a parcel tax.

Rick Niles

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has equated the failure of his tax increase proposal to adding 15 furlough days for teachers. To put that into an educational perspective, tell a high school student to take 15 days off from school and then try to catch up with missed work. Tell a teacher to take three weeks off and too bad about that pesky mortgage payment.

And to further slash our future, another proposal has arisen to cut the two-year science requirement for graduation to one. If you are worried that China is passing us, I would say be very afraid.

I’m not criticizing the governor or the Santa Rosa school board. I’m thankful for their honesty. Public education needs more money.

It needs to come from multiple sources. We need the state tax increase and quite possibly a local parcel tax.

A parcel tax generates money to keep teachers, which in turn keeps class sizes down. If we are to keep breeding new students, I don’t think it’s an onerous burden to provide teachers in their schools. Where does it all end? The answer is that it doesn’t. Not yet anyway.

One way to reduce costs, as mentioned in a PD editorial on Jan. 28 (“SR schools shouldn’t rush ahead on tax”), is to merge districts. That cuts administrative salaries and helps from a public relations standpoint. People see that there is a meaningful effort to cut costs.

Still, we need to keep in mind those are savings probably in the hundreds of thousands. Not to diminish that, but it bears repeating we are looking at an $8.3 million gap to close just in Santa Rosa.

As a society, we have screwed up in a big way. We have wanted it all, and now we are repeatedly being shown that we can’t have it. To tear open an old wound, we are still paying the price of Proposition 13. We wanted public education, but we didn’t want to pay for it.

No one in 2006 wanted to consider the possibility of that particular party coming to an end. If you are worried about burdening future generations with budgets and taxes, worry more about them not having the ability to even pay attention.

There is the view that the only way to fix public education — or anything for that matter — is to let it fail. We don’t have to wait for that in education. From a Darwinian monetary standpoint, it already has. Not only will we need more public money, we will need private money as well.

If it weren’t for Schools Plus, a local volunteer fund-raising organization for sports and the arts, we may have already lost some of these programs.

As a disclaimer, I am on the board of Schools Plus but secretly wish that we didn’t need it to exist. Sadly, we are needed and are vital. Funding from booster groups in the various activities is equally crucial. We are allies in the same war.

A society as whole is only as good as the next producing generation, and we all know that. A recent Press Democrat article reminded me that in the past, we have been pretty accommodating to bond measures. The unfortunate reality is that it still isn’t enough.

It’s not us adults who are getting the rack or garroting. Public education already has been stretched and chocked to its limit.

Rick Niles, a graduate of Santa Rosa High School, is on the Schools Plus board and is a former Santa Rosa Junior College instructor. He has a son at Maria Carrillo High School and another who recently graduated.

15 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Education cuts put burden on our kids’ future”

  1. Canthisbe says:

    Over the last two decades, state lawmakers have bestowed massive pension and benefit increases upon government workers. Unfortunately, taxpayers are now getting the bills for these handouts. Recent studies estimate California has $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. [A] Reason Foundation report details how the state got into this pension crisis and how to fix it. This study highlights numerous problems, including:

    California’s public pension and retiree health and dental care expenditures have quintupled since fiscal year 1998-99, from about $1 billion to $5 billion this year. Retirement spending is expected to triple again – to $15 billion – within the next decade.
    Since 1998, California’s state workforce has grown by 31 percent and taxpayers now pay for more than 356,000 state workers.
    Since 2008, California has added over 13,000 employees to the state payroll during this recession.
    California taxpayers are paying pensions that exceed $100,000 a year to over 12,000 former state and local government workers, including more than 9,000 state and local employees covered by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and over 3,000 former school administrators or teachers covered under the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).
    In the 1960s, just one out of every 20 California state workers received “public safety” pensions. Now, one out of three state workers receives the lavish public safety benefits originally intended for the firefighters and police officers who put themselves in harm’s way.
    California taxpayers pay 85 percent of the health care premiums for most active state workers, 100 percent of the health care costs for most state retirees and 90 percent of health care costs for their families.
    CalPERS reported a loss of $56.2 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009. CalSTRS posted a loss of $43.4 billion in 2009. California taxpayers are on the hook for funding shortfalls not made up by pension fund performance or employee contributions, so taxpayers will be paying more to make up for these pension investment losses.
    The public pension benefit increases passed in 1999 via SB 400, which offered retroactive benefit increases to government workers, were supposed to cost $650 million in 2010. That figure was based on CalPERS’s assessment of its “superior return on system assets.” The actual costs of SB 400 to taxpayers: $3.1 billion this fiscal year and $3.5 billion next year. SB 400 passed by a 70-7 margin in the Assembly, and unanimously (39-0) in the Senate.
    California is the only state in the nation that uses just one year – an employee’s final year salary – to determine their long-term pension benefits. Most states use three- or five-year periods to determine pension benefits, making their systems less susceptible to pension spiking.
    SB 2465, which implemented the one-year final salary rule in 1990, has cost taxpayers more than $100 million a year. It was supposed to cost “only” $63 million per year.
    Reagan was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. It’s obvious that he is responsible for all of California’s problems in the last 35 years. Well, at least it’s obvious to a couple of people. I think the logic goes something like this: Reagan drove all the liberals crazy, so when they got back in power, they did crazy things that they should not be held responsible for because Reagan made them crazy. Can’t blame the liberals, I think.

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  2. GAJ says:

    @Mockingbird, not sure how you blame the “right wing agenda” for the ridiculous runup in tuition in this State when it has been the Democrats who have been carving the budget pie for decades.

    They have chosen to give certain groups ever larger pieces of the pie each year to the detriment of higher education and infrastructure.

    But those decisions that have gutted funding for higher education and infrastructure have kept them in power…which is really what it’s all about…sadly.

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  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Wrong Book Fish-when Jerry Brown’s father, heck, when Jerry Brown was governor our colleges and universities were some of the best in the nation and WERE CHEAP TO ATTEND. Our elementary and high schools were some of the best and people MOVED to California so their children could to attend them. Now we’re 47th in the nation. Can’t blame the liberals. I think the decline started with Ronald Reagan’s union and middleclass bashing and has accelerated over the years since. At this point in time, I think if Ronald Reagan were still alive even he would be appalled. Many of his advisors are speaking out in public about the current freakish rightwing Republican agenda.

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  4. James Todd says:

    I REFUSE to give one more dime to this pathetic state until they stop their WASTEFUL SPENDING!!!
    They want to give illegals an education but they spit on our own citizens! SCREW THAT!!!!
    Jerry Brown and the liberals have demonstrably screwed this state up! Liberal democrats have held the California Legislature since 1992! This is THEIR fault! Take responsibility, you useless morons! THROW THEM OUT! Put some fiscal conservatives in office and let’s FIX THIS MESS!

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  5. Book Fish says:

    The California Teachers Union and liberalism have destroyed the California education system. Giving it another cent will only be spent digging the hole deeper. It seems that the liberal adminstration and unions are playing their last copy of “For the Children” before system failure. It won’t be long now. Absolutely no more additional funding from the public. The scam is up.

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  6. Fiscal Conservative says:

    Another thought….
    The California State lottery was supposed to be the “end- all” financial pot of gold for our schools.

    How about chasing after the lieing polititians, rather than taking the means from working families?

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  7. Fiscal Conservative says:

    How can we keep falling for the same old political trick?

    ” If we don’t increase taxes, we will cut the budget where it hurts the most”

    The buraucrats do not offer to cut any of the other 60+ boondogle special agenda’s. The game is cutting Education,Infastructure,Parks and our basic needs.

    It’s an old game and it seems to be working just fine here in Sonoma County.

    There are huge cuts to be made elsewhere. I say reform the defined benifit pension system and shed the un-needed departments.

    I disagree with Mr.Niles that as a society we have srewed up in a big way, wanting it all and basicly bankrupting the system. This I offer, was not our society as a whole, but one selfish liberal debt ridden generation of our society.

    It’s time to step up, own the actions and make difficult corrections.
    Whining for more taxes and stealing from the next generation is just pitiful.

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  8. The Oracle says:

    The author makes the mistake of trying to make sense when it’s easier to expect more results with fewer resources, demonize educators when it doesn’t happen, and then demand more accountability.

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  9. BigDogatPlay says:

    K-12 education in California is lavishly funded by the taxpayers. That the money is not being more directly spent on the classroom and the students is not for lack of funding. It is due to school administrators featherbedding the bureaucracy so deeply that it’s a miracle so much as a dollar ever makes it into the classroom.

    Schools, like the rest of state government, don’t have a revenue problem. They have a spending problem.

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  10. Commonsense says:

    About 71% of our State budget goes towards Education (K-12 and Higher), Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection (according to the last published state budget). So, while I appreciate the author’s point of view, I can’t agree with his position that taxpayers need to pay at this point.
    First, why do we have so many districts? Second, why do we have so many layers of administration within each district? Third, why are we expected to educate, and in many ways cater to those who do not speak english or are legally present? Why in so many classes do teachers lower expectations and standards to the lowest possible point (yes, I’ve witnessed this many times)?
    There are real issues within the system that need to be addressed before the system agains asks for more money. And, history tells me that even if agreed to, no amount of additional funding will be enough. FYI, the State did raise taxes within the last few years and much of that money went to additional expenditures and programs outside of education, so maybe the teachers union should inquiring of Sacramento just where it’s priorities lay…

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  11. bear says:

    Touble is, these teachers may be trying to educate YOUR kids. Or kids that may have English as a second language.

    If you’re supporting your own kids, and the kids of your employees, why should you whine?

    Anyone with 3 or more kids is on welfare, paid by me.

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  12. Follower says:

    OF COURSE “Education cuts put burden on our kids’ future”!
    What good would it do to make cuts education if nobody cared?

    This isn’t about “what’s best for our kids”.
    It’s about “how do we get the sheeple to vote for a tax increase?”!

    Cutting spending on something only politicians care about would be pointless.

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  13. Canthisbe says:

    “Tell a teacher to take three weeks off and too bad about that pesky mortgage payment”.

    Are teachers the only people with mortgages or do some other property tax payers have them too?

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  14. Skippy says:

    Public education needs less money and more accountability.
    In fact, it needs to be ended entirely and the taxes returned to the citizens to spend on actually educating students.
    The last 40-50 years of statist anti-American indoctrination has produced a population that votes for a living rather than works for a living.
    As long as Big Govt education has a monoploy they will act accordingly; ignoring their stated purpose and making themselves more cozy and immune to those who pay the astronomical bills.
    Sell the facilities; dissolve Boards and Depts. of Big Govt education; return the kids and their parents tax dollars to them and let American ingenuity and entrepeneurism deliver a quality product.

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  15. I’m glad to see Mr. Niles is for eliminating redundant school districts. I believe Sonoma County has 42 separate districts when five should be a more realistic number.

    But what if the problem is not dollars per child, but accountability per teacher? Instead of giving poor and mediocre teachers the same tenure as good and excellent ones, what if teachers were financially rewarded for the success of their efforts and financially punished for consistently failing to inspire and educate their students? That would make me more inclined to support any additional funding for education.

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