Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: State’s treatment of education is infuriating

When I consider how education is being treated during this financial crisis, I am furious with both our state and federal governments.

It is time to write, call, e-mail or visit Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a recent visit to the governor’s office, San Luis Obispo groups were told that the folks in Sacramento are not hearing from parents, students, teachers, classified staff and the community about devastating cuts to education.

Please contact:

• Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee State Capitol, Room 4117, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 319-2033 Fax: (916) 319-2133 E-mail: Assemblymember.blakeslee@assembly.ca.gov

• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger State Capitol BuildingSacramento, CA 95814 (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160 E-mail: gov.ca.gov/interact

So why am I furious? We watched this country invest, bailout and support failing businesses with trillions of dollars. Auto makers got billions. Mortgage companies, banks and stock firms got billions.

Students in this nation received a pittance.

In California alone, we have cut $17 billion from education over the past few years; and this year, the governor’s proposed budget cuts billions more.

The Washington one-time money for students did not end up as million-dollar CEO bonuses. It kept teachers in the classrooms. It saved valuable programs.

Is there new federal aid to education? States across the nation are competing for $4 billion — or enough for $75 per child in the country. But not every child will get that money. This is no bailout, no check to every district. This is a grant process. (What would have happened if all those investment firms had to apply for a grant?)

Only two states qualified during the first round grant. The federal government found trillions of dollars to save corporations, but has public education squabbling over less than $100 per child.

In California, we watch as the state still buys fleets of trucks and cars, talks about funding high-speed trains and prisoners’ health, but California won’t invest in public education.

Cut the hundreds of tiny commissions, cut the tax loopholes like the one that lets chicken growers sell chicken droppings without having to pay taxes on the poop.

If you think we already spend too much on education, check this out: Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Cuba and Mexico all give a greater portion of their gross domestic products to public schools than the United States. In fact, the United States ranks 56th among the 180 nations. This information is from the CIA fact book — not a biased source.

Here at home, California ranks last in number of counselors, nurses, class size, librarians and a host of other areas, including the number of administrators. This year, California has the distinction of spending less per child than 46 states.

All businesses invest in their employees. Not one would let an untrained employee near a piece of machinery, into their computers or into their books. Washington and Sacramento must follow that business model, invest in our children and train tomorrow’s professionals and its work force.

It is time to invest. It is time to invest in the only guaranteed investment there is. For every dollar invested in preschool, we get a return of $7. Invest in public education and fewer people are out of work. Invest in public education and more people earn more money to invest in cars, homes and small businesses. The more years in school, the more you earn, according to the United States Census section on education. We cannot — must not — steal an entire generation’s education.

Mark Buchman is a trustee for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.