Viewpoint

Invest in education, quality of life: Yes on Proposition 30

October 15, 2012 

San Luis Coastal Unified School Board member Mark Buchman speaks in favor of Proposition 30 during a rally in September at Cuesta College. Joining him were other local education leaders, teachers and students.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

With all due respect to the many important decisions before voters this fall, none will have a more direct and immediate impact on our county’s quality of life than Proposition 30.

Proposition 30 is Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to stabilize state funding for public education.

Some might choose to dismiss Proposition 30 as yet another tax. We view Proposition 30 as an opportunity to invest in the future — in the overall health of our society and in providing the well-educated employees that our local businesses need to succeed.

Much is at stake for all K-12 schools in the county, Cuesta College and Cal Poly.

Since 2007-08, our county K-12 schools and Cuesta College each have received 30 percent cuts in state funding, while Cal Poly has seen cuts of 44 percent over the same period.

To say it politely, the state of California has been steadily retreating from its onetime position as the nation’s undisputed leader in public education at all levels.

Bluntly, though, the past four years have been a bloodbath.

We have seen class sizes grow, tuitions increase, vital programs cut back and jobs eliminated.

If Proposition 30 fails, there is no end in sight.

Here’s how much worse it could get if Proposition 30 fails:

Our local K-12 schools would lose an additional $15.6 million this year, which equates to $235,000 for a school the size of Virginia Peterson School in Paso Robles, $300,000 for Laguna Middle School in San Luis Obispo and $990,000 for Arroyo Grande High School.

Rather than restoring quality, our schools will be forced to continue making deep cuts as has already been the case in Paso Robles, where the school year has been shortened.

Cal Poly would lose an additional $14.5 million, or a 17 percent reduction in state funds, with another round of statewide tuition increases planned that would only partially offset the cuts.

Cuesta would lose nearly $3 million more, or another 18 percent cut, and be forced to cut enrollment by as many as another 1,000 students.

Combined, the negative economic impact to our county could exceed $160 million annually, based on an analysis done by the California State University system.

Approval of Proposition 30 would provide some stability in funding, making it less likely that public education would undergo further cuts this year. Proposition 30 might enable modest increases in student enrollment at Cuesta and Cal Poly in the years to come. That will help serve the local economy and California’s broader needs.

California industries desperately need more college-educated students. At current levels, California faces a shortage of 1 million workers with a college education within the decade.

Public education has been America’s great engine that has historically generated opportunity for all, enabling upward mobility regardless of socioeconomic status. Moreover, taxpayers’ investment in public education yields an excellent return.

Every dollar the state invests in higher education generates $5.43 in economic impact in the state’s economy, according to a CSU analysis. Think of this as stimulus spending that works — and has worked for generations of Californians.

Good public schools strengthen our democracy. Good public schools produce productive citizens who can solve society’s challenges and help create a better future for all of us.

Some might say that Gov. Brown has other choices — that he doesn’t need to cut education. While we can’t speak for the governor, we know that this is the choice before us and that the risk to our future is too great. We cannot sit back quietly and see the children and the state’s economic future be put at risk.

Jeffrey D. Armstrong is president of Cal Poly; Julian Crocker is San Luis Obispo County Superintendent of Schools, and Gil Stork is superintendent/president of Cuesta College.

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