Bang, bang — the trigger is about to be pulled.
The state budget adopted this year still includes smoke and mirrors and something else: a mechanism called a trigger. If the money coming into the state coffers is not what was predicted, then the trigger is pulled. The budget is shot to pieces, and those who will suffer the most are children, seniors and the infirm.
For families and children, the most visible target will be public education.
Most agree that the only way public schools will survive the trigger is by shortening the school year. But according to Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Charles Weis, “We already have the shortest school year in the nation.”
And KCBS in San Francisco reported May 4, “By some reports, California’s school year could be 20 days shorter next year.”
What does a 20-day-shorter year mean? Jamming more material into an already overflowing curriculum. Could it mean shutting the doors before geometry students learn there are seven types of triangles? Could it mean that kindergartners will only learn the alphabet through the letter “P”? Could we see soccer games played only to half-time? Could it mean the teaching of American history would stop before the beginning of World War II?
Yes, it could.
How hard is it to understand that investing in children today will lessen the burden on the state for social services in years to come? In 12 years, prisons would be closing rather than schools. Saving the cost of housing one prisoner (plus or minus $50,000) for one year would pay for the annual education of eight students (plus or minus $6,000 per student).
And always remember the California legislators who created the state budget are among, if not, the highest paid in the nation.
Because revenue projections are not panning out, how about another target for the trigger? Let the governor and legislators set an example and take the same action they are asking of 5-year-olds.
Why don’t we shorten their year? Not only would the governor and legislators have to get their work jammed into a shorter year, but they would also have to give up pay, benefits and daily allowances for expenses. No more use of taxpayer-purchased new cars. Lock the Capitol doors.
In the past few years, the Legislature slashed $18 billion from public education. In response, schools jammed more kids into classrooms, pink-slipped teachers and classified staff, and in many cases shortened the school year.
It sounds so easy to steal the education of an entire generation. If it is OK to save money by shooting the school year, then lead by example and cut the work year the same number of days for the governor and legislators.
Or we could ease off the trigger. Each of us could chip in about $1.47 a day (less than a tall Starbucks coffee a day), close most of the budget gap and keep kids in school a full year.
While I am only one of seven school board members, I wanted to share my personal thoughts on the impending state budget trigger.
Mark Buchman is a San Luis Coastal Unified School District board member.