FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

California Democrats Starve Public Education

We are often told that the right wing is acting to destroy public education with people like Wisconsin’s Governor Republican Scott Walker and the Koch brothers being properly vilified. For example, American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten has written that, “We need to tell Govs. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania (now defeated), Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan and others that their chronic disinvestment in higher education is a one-way ticket out of the governor’s mansion.” (AFT on Campus Fall 2014 pg. 3)

Weingarten, who recently was involved in the American Federation of Teacher’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, is suggesting that if we have any hope for higher education, we need to place Democrats in power. The same logic would apply to protecting all forms of public education.

However, in many ways, the Republicans are providing cover so that when the Democrats enact programs that starve public education of proper funding, their actions often go unreported and unnoticed.

Democrats are constantly expressing support for education. The policies they enact often do not match their rhetoric.

Many Democrats share a huge responsibility for the degradation of public education. They have overseen cuts in public educational funding. They have also supported anti-union policies demanding more work for less pay while attacking job protection, high stakes testing, and privatization leading to more charter schools and to contracting out much work that had been done previously in-house by a public school.

A prime example of Democrats overseeing the short changing of public education is California under Governor Jerry Brown. During the time he has been in office, starting in 2011, the Democrats have dominated the state government with huge majorities in both houses of the legislature while also holding all executive offices. However, funding for education in real dollar amounts has been lacking even as revenue has increased and despite a reformed budget process in place during the time Brown has been governor. Now, a simple majority of each house of the state legislature is sufficient to pass a budget. Previously, a two-thirds majority had been necessary.

Here is the recent record of spending on education in California.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 3.01.02 PM

The above numbers are striking.

In the budget approved for fiscal year 2008-2009, when Schwarzenegger was still governor and a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature was necessary to pass a budget, spending for K-12 was $46.2 billion and for higher education stood at $13.6 billion. Both amounts of educational spending are higher for every subsequent year until 2015-2016, even after total state funds were higher than they were in 2008-2009.

Partly in response to the recession that began in 2008, spending on education for all of the years thereafter reached the lowest point in 2011-2012 which is after Brown became governor. Total spending for K-12 and higher education combined that year stood at $46.9 billion compared to $59.7 billion in 2008-2009 when Schwarzenegger was governor. From 2008-2009 to 2011-2012, total state funds declined $15 billion. Educational institutions absorbed the bulk of the cuts as a result of the reduced state funds. The cuts in state spending for education came to $12.8 billion, or over 85% of the reduction in state funds.

The percent of state funds devoted to education was higher during each of the last four years that Schwarzenegger was governor than every year since Brown took office.

In 2015-16, for the first time, nominal spending on education will be higher than it was in 2008-2009. It stands at $50.5 billion for K-12 and $14.6 billion for higher education. This does not mean that more money than in 2008-2009 is being spent on education. Here’s why.

If one takes into account cost of living increases (whose measurement is in dispute) during these seven years, the actual amount of spending on education is, at best, slightly above the same level of real spending it was at in 2008-2009 when Schwarzenegger was governor. From 2008-2009 to 2015-2016, state funds increased from $144.5 billion to $167.6 billion or more than $23 billion. Yet, education has received less than $5.5 billion of the $23 billion increase in revenue. For the previous year, 2014-2015, total education spending was less than $58.5 billion or approximately $1.3 billion less than in 2008-2009 despite total state funds being almost $12 billion higher in 2014-2015 than in 2008-2009.

Another cut in educational spending that undermines the notion of more money being spent in 2015-2016 than in 2008-2009 is reflected in a change in the pension plan of most teachers in California.

Claims were made that the teacher’s retirement plan, CALSTRS, would face huge unfunded liabilities in thirty years. A “reform” was enacted in 2014.

Under the “reform,” school districts face a dramatic increase in their matching contribution based on the pay for all enrollees of CALSTRS. The matching contribution will rise from 8.25% in 2013-2014 to 10.73% in 2015-2016, increasing each year until it reaches 19.1% in 2020-2021.

Given that most of a school’s budget is spent on salaries, much, if not more than all new money going towards education in California, will not be spent on improving the education of students, but end up being sent over to CALSTRS. Then, the people running CALSTRS will send much of this new money on to Wall Street. (Most teachers will also experience a cut in pay of 2.25% when, in 2016-2017, the money docked from their pay stands at 10.25% compared to 8% in 2013-2014.)

Of course, as has been common throughout his career, Governor Brown asserts, as he did to the New York Times in a November 7, 2014 article, that we have to live “within our means” calling doing so “a heroic continuing battle.”

Heroism aside, what in essence is happening is greater austerity unnecessarily being imposed on public education. This results in denying teachers a decent level of pay and K-12 students from experiencing properly funded schools. It minimizes affordable higher educational opportunities at a time when an education is perhaps needed more than ever. And this is coming not from Republicans, but from the Democrats in California.

More articles by:

Rick Baum teaches Political Science at City College of San Francisco. He is a member of AFT 2121.

Weekend Edition
February 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Timothy M. Gill
Why is the Venezuelan Government Rejecting U.S. Food Supplies?
John Pilger
The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies
Andrew Levine
Ilhan Omar Owes No Apologies, Apologies Are Owed Her
Jeffrey St. Clair
That Magic Feeling: the Strange Mystique of Bernie Sanders
David Rosen
Will Venezuela Crisis Split Democrats?
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump’s National Emergency Is The Exact Same As Barack Obama’s National Emergency
Paul Street
Buried Alive: The Story of Chicago Police State Racism
Rob Seimetz
Imagined Communities and Omitting Carbon Emissions: Shifting the Discussion On Climate Change
Ramzy Baroud
Russian Mediation: The Critical Messages of the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Moscow
Michael Welton
Dreaming Their Sweet Dreams: a Peace to End Peace
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming’s Monster Awakens
Huma Yasin
Chris Christie Spins a Story, Once Again
Ron Jacobs
Twenty-First Century Indian Wars
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Venezuela: a Long History of Hostility
Lance Olsen
Climate and Money: a Tale of Two Accounts
Louis Proyect
El Chapo and the Path Taken
Fred Gardner
“She’s Willie Brown’s Protogé!” The Rise of Kamala Harris
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Biomass is Not “Green”: an Interview With Josh Schlossberg
John Feffer
Answering Attacks on the Green New Deal
W. T. Whitney
US Racism and Imperialism Fuel Turbulence in Haiti
Kim Ives
How Trump’s Attacks on Venezuela Sparked a Revolution in Haiti
Mike Ferner
What War Films Never Show You
Lawrence Wittner
Should the U.S. Government Abide by the International Law It Has Created and Claims to Uphold?
James Graham
A Slow Motion Striptease in France
Dave Lindorff
Could Sanders 2.0 Win It All, Getting the Democratic Nomination and Defeating Trump?
Jill Richardson
Take It From Me, Addiction Doesn’t Start at the Border
Yves Engler
Canada and the Venezuela Coup Attempt
Tracey L. Rogers
We Need a New Standard for When Politicians Should Step Down
Gary Leupp
The Sounds of Silence
Dan Bacher
Appeals Court Rejects Big Oil’s Lawsuit Against L.A. Youth Groups, City of Los Angeles
Robert Koehler
Are You White, Black or Human?
Ralph Nader
What are Torts? They’re Everywhere!
Cesar Chelala
The Blue Angel and JFK: One Night in Camelot
Sarah Schulz
Immigrants Aren’t the Emergency, Naked Capitalism Is
James Campbell
In the Arctic Refuge, a Life Force Hangs in the Balance
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Corregidor’s Iconography of Empire
Jonah Raskin
The Muckraking Novelist Dashiell Hammett: A Red Literary Harvest
Kim C. Domenico
Revolutionary Art and the Redemption of the Local
Paul Buhle
Life and Crime in Blue Collar Rhode Island
Eugene Schulman
J’Accuse!
Nicky Reid
Zionists are the Most Precious Snowflakes
Jim Goodman
The Green New Deal Outlines the Change Society Needs
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail