Opinion: Budget Cuts Cripple the Educational System in California

The infamous California budget cuts may have a gradually more profound effect on schooling.

Written by TAYLOR EVANKO / Published February 5, 2010

Are Californian lawmakers underestimating the importance of education and going too far with budget cuts?

Historically, California has been the envy of the nation in education, especially in higher education.

Without a doubt, the University of California is the largest and most successful public school systems in the United States, but recently, that position of prestige has been in decline.

For the past several years, California has ranked among the lowest–and is now the lowest–state in spending per pupil at around $7,000 annually. The national average is around $9,000.

California is the only state in the nation without an oil severance tax. If Sacramento starts to tax oil as it is pumped from the ground, the state estimates it could raise $1 billion every year. Keep in mind that those estimates are made assuming that the oil tax would be 6% of the value of extracted oil at $70 a barrel. If oil prices go up like we saw two summers ago, peaking at $130 a barrel, we would generate much more income. Even Sarah Palin increased oil severance taxes in Alaska to 25% in 2007. With a tax rate that high and oil that expensive, it is estimated that California could earn $8 billion a year coming solely from a severance tax.

Furthermore, because California is the only state that requires a supermajority vote to raise any additional taxes and pass a budget, solving this fiscal disaster is that much harder. These tough requirements in the state legislature often lead lawmakers to authorize temporary solutions, such as borrowing money from counties or out of state sources, or issuing IOUs, that help the state balance its budget for one or two years, but actually make the task more difficult in the long term.

So if California schools cannot get sufficient funding from the state or local governments, that leaves one other entity, the federal government. It’s about time that the federal government starts picking up more of the tab. Local and state governments provide about 90% of education funding. We were so willing to spend $787 billion on a stimulus package to save jobs, so why not jobs in education to prevent teachers from being laid off? Just over $50 billion in direct aid to states for education was icluded in the stimulus bill, $5 billion of which was allocated to California. Considering the fact that Sacramento has recently faced a budget deficit of $40 billion and is expected to face one of over $20 billion, $5 billion for education does not seem to amount to much.

With all the careless spending at the federal level, it’s about time we started investing in something that will actually pay off in the future.

Editor’s Note: The views of this author do not reflect the views of the Temple City Voice or its staff.

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