Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Far-reaching Fiscal Impact on Public Services

          The impact that financial frugality has on public services affects more than California alone. As the debate of financial security and loss of integral services for children and families wages on in California, other states are starting to feel what California has witnessed since 2007. To date, at least 20 states have imposed budget constraints on education. With the statistics showing fifty-two percent of states either actively implementing or proposing cutting essential services, students are being deprived of an essential education needed to supplement our economy.

          According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the decline in public services, specifically education, is not isolated to California. The reduction in services extends to higher education as well. As stated previously, fifty-two percent of states have reduced or planned to reduce K-12 educational services. This number is much greater at the College level. Sixty-four percent of states have implemented or are proposing reduction in services. Like K-12 education, California is not the only state to witness a reduction in educational services. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona, Florida, and California seem to have been affected most.

• Arizona State University plans to address its loss of state funds by holding vacant or laying off 150 to 200 faculty associates, requiring employees to take off an average of three weeks without pay, boosting class size, and reducing enrollment in its nursing school by 5 percent to 10 percent. Tuition in Arizona this year rose 9.5 percent in response to funding cuts.

• In Florida, university budgets and community college funding were cut. The University of Florida has announced it will eliminate 430 faculty and staff positions and decrease funding for disability services, financial aid services and internship opportunities. Student enrollment is declining by more than 1,000 students at both Florida State University and the University of Florida. The legislature approved a statewide tuition increase for the current academic year of 6 percent; the University of Florida increased tuition for in-state undergraduates by 15 percent.

• California is raising in-state tuition for 2009-10 by 7.4 percent to 10 percent as part of its October budget deal, and in December, the governor called for additional tuition increases of 9 to 13 percent for some institutions.

          Much like college institutions, the same projected cuts are affecting the K-12 institution. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada are being hit the hardest.

• California is reducing basic K-12 education aid to local school districts. It also is cutting a variety of other programs, such as adult literacy instruction. For Fiscal Year 2009-10 California’s governor has proposed delaying payments to school districts, allowing school districts to shorten the school year by up to five days, and reducing funding for some grants and programs aimed at helping high needs students.

• Massachusetts enacted cuts to Head Start, universal pre-kindergarten programs, and early intervention services to help special-need children develop appropriately and be ready for school. Funding for K-12 has also been reduced, including spending for mentoring, teacher training, reimbursements for special education residential schools, services for disabled students, and programs for gifted and talented students.

• In Nevada, the governor has ordered various cuts to K-12 education, including delaying an all-day kindergarten expansion, cutting per pupil expenditures by $400 in a pilot program, eliminating funds for gifted and talented programs, eliminating funds for a magnet program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and making across-the-board cuts. Additionally, young children with developmental delays will lose more than 15,000 hours of needed services.

As a constituent of any state can see, the services provided by these states are an irreplaceable benefit to the children and families to which they serve. As I have shown, the crisis that California is facing is not an isolated issue, but rather a nationwide epidemic that needs to be addressed.

         To address the crisis that this nation is facing, we will have to make sacrifices to areas that are not impacted by the budget, and increase our monetary intake. The United States has the highest global GDP, the strongest military, and is the wealthiest country in regards to citizen wealth. To address our deficit, a simple theory would need to be implemented. To reduce any debt, one must intake more than is spent. To address our deficit, our GDP, the highest in the world, needs to increase. This increase in revenue will allow the “bottom line” of this country to skyrocket. To allow further revenue, the United States needs to increase taxation on individual and corporation profits. This is a sticky situation that may force even more outsourcing but is a requirement to addressing our crisis. Our government needs to develop strategic measures to retain large businesses, while still taxing the large corporations to generate revenue. To reduce our expenditures, the United States can afford to reduce the capacity of its military. An improvement in transparency will decrease unnecessary spending. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to pay ten thousand dollars for a hammer, or $180 million on a plane that will be outdated by the time it is built. A dramatic reduction in military spending, an increase in GDP, and a stiff taxation on the wealthy will point this country in the right direction toward a resolution regarding our fiscal crises. We need a resolution for this fiscal impact on public services in order to continue as a nation.


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Are Educational Furloughs a Resolution to Our Crisis?

          In 2009, students wishing to further their education were shaken up by the announcement of mandatory furlough days for faculty and staff. According to California State University Employees Union, the agreement was to place full-time employees on a “temporary non-duty, non-pay status in order to lessen the severity of layoffs.” (CSUEU, 2010) This proposed furlough would allow jobs and resources to be saved. According to the Modesto Bee, “the furlough ended on June 30, 2010, saving $290 million and thousands of jobs.” (Fontana, 2010) Overall, the program might seem like a success, but the value of higher education diminished.
          For a student who paid his way through college with his own sweat and dime, I was shocked when I heard that tuition was rising, and educators would not be as available to assist in bettering the education of students. This discouraged students and faculty alike. Students were not going to be given the opportunity to continue their education, and faculty could not teach those eager to learn. This educational furlough was not only felt at the collegiate level, but throughout the educational system as well. 

          Many educational professionals are stressing the need for increased class time, longer school years, better supplies, and more educators. According to the California Watch, this cry for help has been ignored. “Facing crushing budget deficits, districts throughout the state will cut as many as five days from the school calendar by granting teachers and other staff unpaid furlough days. Many districts also will eliminate days when students are not in the classroom that teachers have used for class preparation, staff training or parent conferences.” (Freedberg, 2010) While this may appear as an immediate resolution to our budget crisis in California, the long-term effect is harmful.
          In order to qualify for the U.S. Department of Education’s $3.5 billion school improvement grant, schools must improve their lowest performing schools with four improvement strategies. According to the Louis Freedberg of the California Watch, “Two of them would require expanding the school day, week or year as schools increase instructional time for core academic subjects.(Freedberg, 2010) This would hamper any improvement that is made towards closing the gap in the budget. Aside from the monetary impact these furloughs would have on our educational system, the educational value would decrease. It would place California well below other countries around the world. “California's shorter school year will put the state even further behind nations such as South Korea, with 220 school days a year, and Switzerland, with 228. California students will find themselves [with] those in Kentucky, Maine and Missouri, where school years are 175 days long.” (Freedberg, 2010)
          Do these furlough days and shortening of school allow students and educators to grow? If educators are adamant about improving the educational system in California, why has change been hampered when other special interest groups can propose legislature to allow sale of cigarettes near children? These questions do not have a clear-cut answer nor is the resolution for this budget like crystal. While improvements within our educational system are made to save money and improve the education of students, this fiscal crisis makes it exceptionally difficult to provide a superior education. Furloughs, albeit a temporary solution to an unexpected budget shortfall, are not the answer that educational professionals are looking for to resolve our faltering education system.
CSUEU. (2010, July 19). Furlough Agreement FAQ. Retrieved July 19, 2010, from CSUEU:
Fontana, C. (2010, 07 19). Furloughs over for schools in the CSU: Stan State calendar avoided headaches. Modesto Bee .
Freedberg, L. (2010, July 15). School year shrinking as budget crisis grows. California Watch .

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Administration’s View

      What would your response be if your salary were to be cut by an astonishing fifty thousand dollars per year? Would you allow this cut to occur if it meant a more stable economy in California? How would you pay your mortgage and feed your children if your wages were cut this drastically? All of these questions are actively discussed in families who work for California. The cause for concern is rooted in a suggestion made by our Governor. The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has placed an initiative in place, citing court documentation to back his idea, that would effectively reduce the average salary of $65,000 per year to a mere fifteen dollars per hour. Budget cuts are necessary to improve the already dismal fiscal future this state has, but is the governor providing the correct solution by reducing pay and removing invaluable services and programs?

          Overall, California has been facing deep cuts in its fiscal agenda since 2008. While the administration has cut under-performing programs and useless pet projects of previous legislature, reducing the budget for public services has far greater impact than cutting programs that are no longer needed. Some of the programs and services in danger of being removed include our foster care system, parole restrictions, and after-school programs. As programs and services are removed from agencies statewide, administrators are faced with ever-changing challenges to remedy the ever-growing fiscal crisis. These decisions, albeit unpopular by many, are the unintended evils of the fiscal crisis we are facing.

          Making decisions on which program to cut is not an easy task. These decisions are marred with stress and emotional turmoil and are not made without research. These decisions are backed by quantitative and empirical data to validate the decision to remove an under-performing program from budgetary consideration. While the budgetary reductions have affected the residents of California, they are small compared to the overall magnitude of the situation. The changes that have been made to address the fiscal crisis in California include a infinitesimal one percent increase in sales tax, an increase in the Vehicle License Fee, and nearly one billion dollars in budgetary cuts for public health care.

          While there are still areas of opportunity, overall administrators have handled the fiscal crisis the only way they know how. Administrators reacted spontaneously to a preventable epidemic. As Mint states, “this is a learning experience on many levels for our current Administration.” The lesson to be learned from this crisis indicates improvements in fiscal and expense management practices would allow a resolution to our current issue and a course of action to prevent this issue from occurring in the future.


Huffington Post -

Mint Online -

Monday, June 28, 2010

Educator's Impact

          As tough economic times continue throughout the state of California, educators are being relieved of their duties at alarming numbers. One newspaper article titled Modesto parents, students, lose chance to fight for their teachers, explains the importance of those who are educating our youth, while another titled Budget cuts more painful at inner-city schools, demonstrates the need to address the issues of inner-city schools.

          Educators play an integral role in the development of children throughout their childhood. According to the Modesto Bee, Jaden Brown is empathically caught up in the decision to remove 91 educators from Modesto city schools. Jaden organizes car washes, walks her neighbor’s dog, and even bakes cookies to sell in hopes of saving an educator’s valuable job from a Modesto school. While this is a feat to pull off as an adult, it is more impressive that Jaden Brown is nine years old, and the teacher she is trying to save is her own. While budget cuts are required, many argued the lay-offs were incorrectly implemented.

          While some educators are more valuable to children due to their experience, some who do not have the experience of a twenty-year educator are successful in their endeavor. The justification that the district gave to keep some educators over others was strictly based on seniority and not the ability of the educator. In Modesto, there were instances of educators having the skill and experience needed to successfully perform at the level required, losing their job due to seniority. Administrators argue that this is a fair means of dealing with a dark situation in times where fiscal uncertainty is the only certainty.

          From an administrator’s point of view, reducing staff size, by eliminating those who are “lowest on the totem pole”, seems to be the best method of leaving the tenured educators in their positions to educate our youth. The only flaw with this model is the fact that there are educators who are more skilled, albeit lacking experience, than those with tenure. Administrators are tasked with an unbelievable difficult job of preserving the best and brightest for the future of our children. While administrators deal with the bureaucracies of education, those working on the front lines, the teachers, are those hit hardest.

          A fifth grade elementary teacher from Mendota Heights School District in Minnesota moved away from what she loved. She hoped to find another teaching opportunity in California to help our budding youth reach their full potential; this was three years ago. Three years of searching for an opportunity to continue what you love to do, is heart wrenching. This is one of the many cases of an educator not able to improve the lives of youth around the state. Due to the budget cuts, educators are left no choice but to find other work in other areas. This reduces the availability of those willing and able to mold our children into the future leaders of this country. Without this mold, children, as indicated within the inner city school districts of Los Angeles, will be more tempted to lead a life of crime and violence than one of innovation and intellect.

Sacramento Bee:

Sacramento Bee:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Cutting the Budget Chic?

            In 2006, before the housing market collapse, before our president was elected, before the iPhone was coined as ‘The Greatest Invention Ever,’ the fiscal crisis was solemnly poking its head into our perfect world. Our life as we knew it was about to change, quite possibly forever. In 2006, the stock market plunged, families were forced to the street, and millions of Americans lost their way of life. While changes have been made, they have not been what this country needs. Instead of infusing our economy with job opportunities and fiscal improvements, many states are decreasing their budget and cutting valuable resources from the communities they serve.
            In 2010, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his war on California’s $20 billion budget deficit. According to Reuters, the Governor will cut spending that he saw as ‘draconian.’ His method of erasing our deficit was not to introduce new taxes but to eliminate existing programs across all areas; Police officers, fire fighters, educators, and other public service workers are being forced from the jobs they love. The removal of funds leaves our fragile ecosystem of police protection, medical assistance, and education in shambles. While some argue that the budget cuts are necessary, others argue that removing public services places the communities they serve, in grave danger.
            Policymakers, while addressing their fiscal needs, only account for their agenda and not those who are affected by the budget cuts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vallejo has had 40% of its police force quit or give notice since plans have surfaced of budget cuts. While there is no direct correlation indicating an increased crime rate because of the fiscal crisis, public service officials, around the country, argue that the crime rate has not increased. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, “Kathy Zoner, the Police Chief of the Cornell University Police Department, has not observed any correlations between crime rates and the economic decline”.   While the correlation has not been linked, the decrease in staffing has. According to the FBI, the national average for sworn police officers per 1000 residents is 2.4. Due to budget cuts, Vallejo’s ratio is one per 1000 residents. According to Jason Wentz, a Vallejo native and twelve-year veteran of the police force, citizens are worried. "People on the street know we are scaling down," said Mr. Wentz. "The high-crime neighborhoods are used to seeing more patrol cars, and they notice the ramp-down." To problem-solve by cutting money from the organizations on which communities rely most, is like salting the earth that is needed to provide sustenance. While there will be ever-evolving progress in reducing the budget, other sources of income and other means of cutting the budget need to be addressed.