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.
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.