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Back to school: Governor, GOP lawmakers get an

The calendar is moving us forward to the first week of school. Meanwhile in Sacramento, the governor and legislative Republicans are moving us backwards, holding up adoption of a state budget and slashing school funding. Being both tardy and incomplete on the state budget undercuts improvements in public schools.

Having no school funding level set so late in the summer harms schools and colleges. Schools and colleges can't properly plan or hire without budget authority.

Some teachers and school staff may not know until the week school opens whether they will have a job or not. Think of the first-grade student arriving next week to a school in such a funding straitjacket. That child only gets one chance at first grade.
Failing her this year due to political malfeasance causes her harm that may never be completely undone.

Beyond being "tardy," the governor's latest budget plan provides incomplete school funding. Having already seen legislators slash more than $2 billion from school funding, the governor now proposes to cut an additional $1 billion dollars.

We education leaders are left with the bitter pill of calling for adoption of the Democratic conference committee budget, which reduces education funding by $2.4 billion. Talk about bad choices.

Republicans are holding their breath until they turn blue rather than support taxes for education and other critical services. Irresponsibly, the Republicans refuse to specify where they would cut billions. They hope to hide from the pain their budget proposal imposes on public schools. But there are many fair ways to raise revenues to balance the multibillion-dollar cuts schools will be forced to absorb.

Incredibly, the Republicans' budget plan includes a reward for the sub prime lending industry. The loss carry-forward scheme proposal that would allow those that helped to cause our foreclosure crisis to charge their current losses against their past gains in order to pay less taxes – at the very time that we are cutting budgets for vital services. Do these bankers who knowingly sold high-interest mortgages to high-risk families that couldn't shoulder that kind of debt deserve support more than schoolchildren?
The Republicans have proposed a constitutional amendment, ACA 19, which undermines Proposition 98, lowers school funding and does not allow the Legislature to address the woeful under-funding of education in California.

California is 47th in per student funding in K-12, 45th in community colleges. California is the richest state in the richest country in the world. We should be able to adequately fund our schools, parks, roads, health care (for seniors and young people at least), fire protection, and the rest of vital services of the state.

We can do so if we close tax loopholes, tax oil as other states do, and repeal the Bush tax cuts on upper incomes (above $300,000 per year). As the Republicans call for a budget that closes schools and lays off teachers, please remember last week's New York Times article on a new report (from the federal Government Accountability Office) that found that two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998-2005. We should find out how California loopholes allow California corporations to dodge their fair share of taxes.

It's time for those who can afford to pay, those who are avoiding paying their fair share, and those legislators who are holding up a fair budget, to support adequate funding for public schools. When first-graders knock on that school door after Labor Day, the school should be open, funded and ready to provide her the fast start she deserves. Tempus fugit!


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