Is California Education On Its Deathbed?

Incresaing Costs, Rising Fees

For the past several weeks, it seems that nothing else has been on the news.

Because of a still increasing deficit in the state budget due to at least in part to tax revenue continuing to decrease, The Board of Regents of the University of California has radically increased student fees; undergraduates now have to pay upwards of $10,000 per year.

Students have staged mass protests, building takeovers, and sit-ins in reaction to this at the system's ten campuses; the flagship schools of Berkeley and UCLA have seen the largest of these uprisings.

California's 23-campus state university system, the country's largest with over 200,000 pupils, has fared worse as classes have been cut and teachers, as well as staff members, have been forced to take furlough days - and that's if they have been lucky enough not to get laid off.

That has maimed the sudents' ability to make sufficient progress toward obtaining their degree.

Combining that with the ongoing reductions of services, programs, and the increasing of class sizes at the elementary and secondary level, and one can say that this nation's most populous state has an education system that is on its deathbed.

As someone who has earned his high school diploma, associate's and bachelor's degrees, and has done graduate-level studies in this state, this predicament does not make me sad.

It makes me angry.

Angry that this state's taxpayers, especially those in the affluent sector, don't seem to care about public school education - or at least care enough.

Over the last roughly three decades, it has been the taxpayers that have continued to refuse to pass any measures that would help schools and prevent them from having to let go of teachers and staff, removing physical education, music and art from the curriculum, and from increasing class sizes.

In fact, the taxpayers have done the opposite and have passed measures that have cut levies, which effectively cut funding from important programs; Proposition 13, the measure passed in 1978 that greatly reduced property taxes and led to a reduction of many school services, particularly comes to mind.

Fifty people in an english class, as is the case with many of California's public high schools, is not conducive to learning.

I'm also angered because of the fact that these cuts and fee increases, the quality of the schools has been steadily worsening, as California's ranking, which was once among America's best, is now among America's worst.

I'm angry that many good people - teachers, aides, and support staff - are losing their livelihoods and are likely facing ills such as high debt, bankruptcy, and foreclosures.

And most of all, I'm angry about the ones that are suffering the most because of this mess - the students, pre-kindergarteners as well as graduate students.

This state's schools have been under such financial assault these last few years that it seems to me that in the very near future, there will be nothing left to cut.

Shutting down schools and school districts will undoubtedly be the next step, the way things are going.

Unless hearts start to change and California's residents start to feel the pupils' pain enough to ante up, it wouldn't be surprising if within this next decade certain school districts and colleges were permanently closed due to the lack of money.

I can imagine places such as Cal State San Bernadino, a small commuter school 60 miles east of Los Angeles, shutting down, as well as many of California's two-year community colleges, one of which, Santa Monica College, I was an honors graduate of.

That would obviously hurt everybody involved; people would not be able to fulfill career dreams and ambitions, employers would witness their hiring pool lessen due to the lack of qualified candidates, and the economy would feel even more pain than it already has as with fewer people working, which would equal less buying power.

That is where California's higher education system is heading at this rate.

At this moment it is critically ill and well on its way to a painful death; any chance that this situation has of being remedied will consist at least partly of taxpayers consenting to dig into their pockets to save things that need to be saved.

Are the citizens of this Golden State (which hasn't been very golden at all lately) willing to do what is necessary to save its public school and higher education systems?

For the sake of this state's children, young people, and those who are using education to try to achieve a better life, I truly hope so.

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