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.


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