Starve the Beast is what they call it. Those who hate “big government” have decided that since it is politically untenable to gut popular programs such as Social Security and public education, they will simply obstruct the revenues necessary to support such services, and government will be forced to shrink because there won’t be enough money to pay for it.
In California, our governor was elected after his predecessor was recalled over an unpopular increase in vehicle registration fees. Governor Schwarzenegger rolled back those fees, costing the state billions of dollars in revenues. And we have Proposition 13, which has frozen property taxes at 1978 levels for everyone, including large corporations. The taxes go up when property changes hands. Funny thing though. Individual homeowners on average own their homes for five or six years before selling. Corporations hold them for decades. Guess who has wound up paying the lion’s share of these taxes, and who has gotten the greatest benefit?
We have a state legislature with a Democratic Party majority, but there is a two-thirds requirement for the budget to pass, and the governor holds a veto threat as well -- no new revenues can be found, even when the state faces huge deficits.
The Great Recession has hit California hard. Unemployment is at around 12% -- much higher in some neighborhoods. Property values have declined by as much as 40% in some areas, leading to a significant decline in tax revenues.
Schools have taken a huge hit. Over the past two years, $17 billion has been cut from education spending. This coming school year will be even worse, with the state cutting an additional $200 per student from the funds provided to each school district. My own district, Oakland Unified, is looking at a $40 million deficit. San Francisco - more than $100 million in the hole.
Students, teachers and parents are taking a stand on March 4. Last October, college students across California protested cuts to education. From this emerged plans for a statewide - and now a national day of action. The California Teachers Association has joined in, and is planning protests as well.
Oaklanders will be gathering downtown at Frank Ogawa Plaza at noon on March 4. There is a larger rally in San Francisco at the Civic Center at 5 pm.
Is your school starving yet? What do you think should be done to provide adequate funding for our schools? Will you protest on March 4? What are the plans in your community?
The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.