A 9 percent fee increase at California State University campuses triggered an angry protest last week, but CSU students are hardly the biggest losers in California’s continuing assault on public education.
If anything, they are the lucky ones.
To be clear, no one wants to see college fees raised once again. It’s especially tough on students from middle-class families who don’t qualify for government grants, but at the same time aren’t so wealthy that they can easily afford another 9 percent fee increase.
But let’s take the long view: Employment prospects for college graduates are much brighter than for their peers who don’t earn degrees. That’s been apparent throughout the economic downturn, when college grads have had far lower unemployment rates than the general population.
Cal Poly graduates in particular have done well; surveys conducted last year showed that the median starting salary for Cal Poly grads — $55,000 — topped all other CSU and UC campuses, including Berkeley and UCLA.
So let’s focus on the real losers in the defunding of education:
They are the K-12 students who — thanks to shortsighted policies in Sacramento — are among those bearing the biggest brunt of another round of budget cuts on the horizon.
Because it appears almost certain that the state will not meet revenue projections that were the basis for the 2011-12 budget adopted in the summer, that will trigger additional cuts.
Unless the state comes up with a new plan to raise revenue, public schools stand to lose $1.4 billion.
San Luis Obispo County schools project a $7.6 million reduction, according to the County Office of Education, including $6.2 million in per-student funding and $1.4 million in transportation funds.
And what’s the state’s solution?
It’s giving school districts permission to trim five days from the school year — if they can win agreement from teachers unions.
With five fewer days, what would teachers cut from their lesson plans?
Cell division? The Vietnam War? South America?
Realistically speaking, you can’t lose a week of instructional time and still cover a curriculum that’s already almost impossible to cram into the school year.
To be clear, it’s not a given that any local districts will shorten the school year. But the cuts will have to come from somewhere, because unlike California’s public universities, K-12 schools can’t raise fees to help cover their shortfalls.
So what then?
Cut drama? Football? Kindergarten supplies?
That we even raise such hypothetical questions shows who the real budget losers are: Not college students, but kids.
We must demand that Sacramento stop the incessant cuts to K-12 schools, or many of California’s children may never receive the academic tools they need to take the next step to higher education.