Educators Threaten Classroom Cuts

Katy Grimes: The latest budget threat over Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions is coming from a group of school superintendents in the state who are urging Republican lawmakers to accept the tax extensions. Brown says the tax extensions will raise at least $12 million toward closing the budget deficit.

If the measure fails, Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson said, “We will spend the ’11-’12 school year decimating, devastating and tearing down programs … across this entire state,” the Sacramento Bee reported today.

Once again, politicians are threatening cuts to the end user instead of cutting the administrative fat. Threats to cut school music and sports programs are designed to extort emotional votes for the tax entensions from parents and voters.

Local news channels spent most of the entire evening yesterday interviewing kids and parents at local schools, playing right into the hands of the Brown strategy.

But I am betting that voters are not as dim and easily played at protrayed in the news. In the last seven elections where tax increases were on the ballot, voters did not pass one.

There are so many areas in education to cut that would not impact the students.

Class size can and should be increased again – there have been many studies that have found reduced class size does not mean better learning or more successful students. How is is that classes were large until the 1990’s, and students test scores were higher, and drop-out rates were much lower?

One study, the California Education Report Card, authored by Lance Izumi, J.D., with the Pacific Research Institute (CalWatchdog’s parent organization), found that “tens of billions of dollars in state and local bond money was spent on school construction, partly in response to the class reduction.” And, analysis found no relationship between class reduction size exposure and student achievement.

Additionally, Izumi found that class-size reduction required the hiring of significantly more teachers, which changed the composition of the state’s teaching corps. Before class size reductions, schools had mostly credentialed teachers. “After the enactment of the class sizes reductions, more teachers with emergency credentials were hired and were distributed unevenly in schools,” wrote Izumi, primarily because teachers with seniority chose to leave disadvantaged schools, leaving less-experienced teachers in the lower income, non-English-speaking or minority schools.

The state and county departments of education should also be cut to allow school districts manage their own schools. Since most people don’t even really know what the agencies do, it would be best to cut them and start over if necessary.

The increasing gratuitous union fear-mongering being done to help pass the tax increases is evidence that Brown’s plan to solve the budget crisis is losing support. And if that continues, expect the Democratic party to use the majority vote instead.

The “let the people vote on tax increases” campaign promise sounds as if it is losing popularity with the Governor as time goes on. If it means losing the tax increase extensions or allowing the people to vote, I’m putting my money on tax increases, few meaningful budget cuts, and a big win for the teachers union and public employee unions.

MAR. 29, 2011

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