Our View: Where is the money going?

Our View
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What would the 9,000-plus California public schools do with more than $64 billion if they could decide? Our guess: Fund current teacher salaries and hire new ones to keep class sizes reasonable, reinstate music and art classes that were cut, fund sports teams and other extracurricular activities and a multitude of other services that would directly provide public education students with the best bang for their buck. This year the California Department of Education projected receiving $64.1 billion in revenue for the 2011-12 budget. That includes $34.7 billion from the state’s general fund, $14.5 billion in local property taxes and $858 million from the state lottery, in addition to other revenue sources that add up to the total figure. So why has it become an annual event to announce teachers receiving preliminary layoff notices? It’s clear the state has money for education, so asking taxpayers, even the “1 percent,” to pay more for it – like student protestors did at the Capitol this week – isn’t really the right question. Instead, protesters, parents, students, teachers, administrators and taxpayers need to keep asking: Where is the money going? Last week, the Placer Union High School District board authorized layoff notices for temporary employees. The layoff notices are preliminary and in years past 80 to 90 percent of employees who received notices were rehired by the start of the next school year. That’s somewhat reassuring news, but not really if your livelihood and that of your family’s depends on that income. It’s not comforting for students and parents, either, wondering what classes will be available and how many students will be in them. For local districts it’s constantly a waiting game to see what funding they’ll get from the state. They’ve also got their hands tied with some funding being restricted to specific categories. College students and teachers who marched on the state Capitol this week were certainly exercising their free speech rights and demonstrated their anger in a peaceful way. And their anger is justified. Following December budget cuts, college fees raised to $46 per unit while community colleges funding was hacked by $102 million. University of California and California State University both took a $100 million hit to their bottom lines. But it’s not taxpayers who should shoulder more of the burden. Again, the same question applies: Where is the money going? It seems with each passing budget cut and cry for more funding, that school districts need local control of their funds more than ever before. Our state legislators need to push forward any and all efforts to put the money directly into the hands of school districts instead of it funneling through state bureaucracies. That way, when taxpayers ask, “Where is the money going?” they can see where it is spent in their own schools for the children in their community.