I am a fifth generation native Californian. I went to California public schools in San Francisco and then San Carlos at a time when adult generations that had endured a Great Depression, and then a great war, put their children first.
When I graduated from Carlmont High School in 1965, California was fifth of 50 states in per-pupil spending, right up there with New York. I was from a blue-collar family, but was given an opportunity to have a wonderful education and, subsequently, a wonderful life.
Today, California's per-pupil funding ranks among the nation's worst.
In 2005-06, before the current economic crisis, California ranked 47th in per-pupil spending, spending $2,000 less per pupil than Arkansas and Louisiana, more than $5,000 per pupil less than New York and New Jersey, and half of the spending in Vermont and Rhode Island. While most of the rest of the nation has increased its spending, California continues to drop. California is one of three states to have cut K-12 funding more than 20 percent since 2008, leaving us almost $3,000 below the national average.
If Proposition 30 passes, Gov. Jerry Brown says there will be no further cuts.
Sadly, we will remain 47th in the nation in per-pupil spending.
Only Proposition 38 improves per-pupil spending in a meaningful way. The money follows the children into the classroom and is targeted for 12 years. Under Proposition 30, the governor has pledged no further cuts to education, but the sales tax part of the revenue goes away in four years and the rest in seven years. Meanwhile, the governor has signaled he intends to use some of the money for an ill-considered high-speed rail project and a new peripheral canal, without increasing per-pupil spending in any meaningful way.
California's Constitution says that even before the payment of debt, the first priority is the education of children. That commitment has not been honored by legislators for years. That is why Proposition 38 keeps faith with our heritage, the constitution and our values as a democracy, and acknowledges that in a global economy, education should be a smart nation's first priority.
I will vote for Proposition 30 without enthusiasm, yet vote enthusiastically for Proposition 38. Proposition 38 gives substantially more support to K-12, but it also reverses deep cuts to early childhood education.
Only a person ignorant about brain development would compound the felony of deep cuts to K-12 and higher education by making deep cuts to early education. The brain is a network that is substantially wired before kindergarten. Many synapses or brain connections cannot occur after the age of 5.
The pennies saved by trying to steal from early education are dollars paid out later for special education, summer school or after-school services; then for those dropping out of school; and, later still, for welfare, unemployment and marginal employment, even jail.
It sickens me that California is close to last in per-pupil expenditures, yet No. 1 in per-prisoner expenditures. I strenuously object to that statement of values. Budgets are statements of values, my fellow citizens.
Vote yes on Proposition 38 and reclaim the glory that was once the Golden State's by standing up for our children. As Neil Postman eloquently said, "Children are a message we send to a time we will never see."