On Governor Brown’s State of the State address
For immediate release: Jan 5, 2015
Statement by CFT president Joshua Pechthalt
While Governor Jerry Brown’s inaugural address on Monday rightly celebrated California’s climb back from its $26 billion deficit four years ago to a balanced state budget today, he made but a brief reference to the main reason why this has happened, which was the passage of Prop 30 in 2012.
The result, he pointed out, is that 2015 will see a 39% increase in school funding compared with four years ago, and the influx of funds has allowed districts to begin to address long standing inequities faced by schools with a high proportion of high need students – low income, non-English speaking, and foster children – through the Local Control Funding Formula.
On higher education, the CFT strongly agrees with the Governor’s position that students should not be “the default financiers of our colleges and universities,” an implicit statement that he will continue to oppose the UC Regents’ attempt to raise student fees.
But several important issues were left outside of his rosy picture. While progress has been made in restoring school staff and resources lost to the Great Recession on top of decades of underfunding, California still ranks near the bottom in K-12 per pupil funding among the states. In many districts, increased funding due to Proposition 30 and an improved economy has yet to reach the classroom.
In our community colleges, course offerings dropped during the recession and adjunct faculty who lost their jobs are slowly returning. But a half million fewer students are being served by the system since the downturn, and the community colleges remain challenged by a severe lack of resources, especially if they are to support the governor’s stated goal of “timely completion” for students of their coursework. According to a recent report, community college counselor/student ratios range up to 1800 to 1.
The governor’s continuing references to Prop 30 as “temporary taxes” is troubling. This progressive tax, which brings in $6-7 billion per year, must be renewed, or a similar tax put in place, or schools will return to the devastating yearly cuts students and their families faced before its passage. The governor’s repetition of the “live within our means” mantra does not help; we need to expand an inadequate revenue pie, not whittle down our aspirations to fit within a starvation diet. As he said in the conclusion of his speech, “the challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it.” To actually do that will take more than words.
The California Federation of Teachers represents 120,000 education employees, from Head Start through the University of California. It is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. More info: www.cft.org