It’s a funny thing: the elementary and high school education centers across California do not appear to be showing improvements, and yet funding for public schools is at an all-time high across the state.
While the entire projected budget is just over $144.3 billion, more than $45.7 billion is going to K – 12 education, more than $41 billion of which will be coming from that state’s General Fund alone. Comparatively, Higher Education (colleges and universities) will receive about $14.2 billion of this coming year’s project budget, more than $11.7 billion of which will come from the General Fund. While state colleges are taking leaps and bounds in research, the funding allocated to these institutions is just over one-quarter of what is being spent on K – 12 education.
So even with rising tuition costs, and an incredibly competitive admissions process, why is the state only allocating a budget of about one-fourth the size of K – 12 expenditures, to our bastions of higher learning, the state colleges? Perhaps this is a question better answered by vague accountability standards for K – 12 educators and unions that have been slow to accept sweeping reforms.
Of course, plenty of money needs to be spent on all education, from kindergarten through college. However, isn’t it time government officials truly took a look at fiduciary trends, moving forward with what works, and fixing what doesn’t? Few can argue believably that there is not a problem with the way California currently funds educational institutions.
This year’s General Fund provided $41,145,000 toward financing K – 12 Education, a drop of $1.362 billion from last year’s $42,507,000. This constituted a decrease of 3.2 percent in spending by the General Fund for this particular arena. Along with that cut came another decrease in the amount of money provided for Higher Education by the General Fund. For the 2008 – 2009 project budget,the General Fund will fund Higher Education 0.5 percent less than 2007 – 2008, for a decrease of $61 million or a change from $11,819,000 to $11,758,000.
There have had to be cuts across the board (except for Health and Human Services, which was the one area with a budgetary increase of 0.2 percent, from $29,726,000 to $29,800,000), so it was inevitable that Higher Education would be cut as well. But why is the funding for our colleges still lagging so far behind, while new technologies and viable research arises all the time from our noted University of California, California State University and California Community College systems?
As with any household budget in decline, our state legislators need to take an honest look, and here are some suggestions: Drop the funding for K – 12 by 1.8 percent (for an even 5 percent). If testing scores and school rankings stay approximately the same, we can determine that massive funding increases are not directly correlated to massive increases in school performance. Set up greater accountability; only offer salary increases/bonuses to instructors whose classes consistently show improvement; for every 70 percent of their students who score at or above their expected grade-level performance levels, give teachers a 1 – 5 percent salary bonus.
There are so many ways to reward good work, and conversely, (and sadly) there are methods in place that still reward those who go through the motions, rather than help educate minds.