After writing my post earlier this week on the inability of school districts to remove bad teachers I began to think of the lack of control our local school districts really have. It seems the closer one is to the student the less control there is in the education and the decisions relating to it. The control and direction of funds is upside in my view. The on-site administrator, the principal, has almost no budget control; the local school superintendent is pushing money into boxes established by the State Department of Education; and the State funding and spending is also dependent on the Federal Department of Education. The person closest to the student has the least say in what programs may be needed at a school and what programs are not needed.
This has evolved because of several factors, primarily because our education system has evolved into one size fits all. This results in mandates and programs that must be implemented for students in rural Turlock as for urban San Francisco. Not trusting school districts to properly care for the children in their own communities, the state mandates how funds are to be spent restricting the maneuverability local school boards and superintendents need to fit their students in their district.
In the background of this is of course the budget, which is actually in the foreground. I am having a very hard time understanding how our State Legislature has passed budgets that have doubled spending from Sacramento in the past ten years, yet my local district is cutting programs that existed ten years ago. How bad is your government when it doubles in size across the state in a decade, but the programs available to your children ten years ago have to be eliminated because of lack of funding from the state? It speaks to the corrupt culture that is so pervasive in our election and budget process that those public employees' organizations who have donated so many millions across the past decade to elect the majority of our legislators have received raises and increased benefits in budget after budget, yet at our local school we are raising money to retain a computer lab instructor.
I will beat this drum again, and again, and probably several more times, the California voter has no idea what he or she is voting for when punching a ballot. Every single summer we go through the same budget crisis and some time in July or August or even September a few Republicans will cross the line and vote for another budget that increases spending in California--but not in the classrooms. Raises will be given to prison guards, state sanitation workers will be given higher retirement benefits and a guaranteed no lay off clause, Assembly aides will be promoted and paid well into six figures, and no voter will bat an eye to vote for the same person in the next election. All of this abetted by first Gray Davis and now Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In Long Beach the district has had to cut the science camp trip for fifth graders, a rite of passage in the culture of the district, as I said our campus is raising $50,000 to retain a full time computer lab teacher, other friends say they are losing Spanish instructors, or physical education (we already lost ours), or what music or art instruction they may have. Program after program is being cut from a budget that is getting less and less funding from Sacramento despite the doubling of the budget in the past ten years.
The new math in California: double spending while cutting funding. And we can expect it to continue because the public employee organizations will poor millions more into the coffers of our elected officials, primarily Democrats--or I should say exclusively--who will pass more budget items favoring the employees over the citizens, favoring their salaries and job security over children's education.
Our system is truly broken and needs to be fixed. For education my proposal is to release the mandated spending from the state and give funds to the districts. Then let the districts determine how best to put the funds into the classroom. Release control of education back to the local community. If a district is failing and it is evident the funds are not being spent in a way that is educating the children of its community then the State can step in with a program to rehabilitate the district. But do not make every district suffer because of the few who may mismanage their funds. We already have classes that tend to teach to the lowest common denominator, let's not have funding on the same principle. If Turlock feels more funding is needed in language arts and less in music let them spend their funds to support this, if Capistrano wants higher math scores and less funding for language arts let them spend their money how that community sees best for its students and its needs.
With the placing of Propositions 1A-F on the ballot the Governor and Legislature have shown the California people they have no clue how broken the system is, what is very scary is they have shown the people they have no clue how to fix the system either. The only way to force it to be fixed is to break it further--and the start to the fix must be returning control of funds for education to the local school boards, to the communities that paid the taxes should go the control on how they are spent. Take control away from the special interests in Sacramento and bring it back to parents and communities.