California education is in a state of emergency
Let me just say that I am angry and I am not going to take it any more. The state of California is in a crisis and now it is in a state of emergency. California is the eighth-largest economy in the world, yet lawmakers refuse to appropriately fund the education of its children. California ranks 43rd in the nation in per-student funding. California schools have been cut $20 billion over the last 3 years, and this makes me angry.
Today, California public schools are facing additional cuts of $4.1 billion because no Republican lawmaker in either house has agreed to support placing temporary tax extensions on the June ballot allowing the citizens of California to decide. The Republican Caucus has distributed a briefing report on schools arguing that the woes of public education have nothing to do with the shortage of funds, but is the result of bad teachers and high pensions.
The average retirement pension for a California public educator is $3,000 a month with no health coverage. A retired educator paying out-of-pocket for health care means living near poverty. This makes me angry.
These facts illuminate the narrow-minded obstinacy of those who refuse to take on the real problem of a massive draconian shortfall for public services. California has about 6.2 million students, about 1.5 million more than Texas. Texas pays more than $11,000 per student and California around $9,700, yet the total education spending for both is very close. Besides dealing with the complexities of running a school system of this magnitude, California educators face other challenges. California has the highest percentage of English learners in the nation and is close to the top in the proportion of students living in low-income families. You can't provide a quality education for our California children with a Texas budget.
For the past five months, the California Teachers Association and its education allies-administrators, school boards and the state Parent Teacher Associations have been urging the legislature to adopt the budget proposal of Gov. Brown. Let us not forget that Gov.Brown inherited a $25 billion budget deficit when he took office.
Isn't it obvious why these groups are joining forces? They are fed up and they are angry with all of the bipartisan bickering and the refusal to work together for the greater good of our children and public services. We refuse to sit back and do nothing while the negligence of some lawmakers bankrupt our schools, close our parks, abandons our sick and elderly and puts entire communities at risk. This makes me angry. I encourage all of you who value the importance of a quality public education for children in California, to join our State of Emergency. You can start by joining me and all of those who value public education in California at our rally on the Sonoma Plaza Friday, May 13, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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Gary Griffith is President of the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association.