In the endless stream of panicked budgetary suggestions, there is one area which often receives the most unpleasant amounts of irrational hatred from its opponents, and which spawns the greatest number of guilt-based arguments from its proponents. That area is California's education budget, a massive, Leviathan entity which consumes more than 40 percent of California's budget.
Of course, the mere suggestion of removing funding from such a behemoth
is almost as risky as trying to suggest cuts to the Social Security
regime, and indeed, especially given the proclivity of many
high-profile liberal activists to use heart-wrenching language in
defense of education, it's understandable where this risk comes from.
After all, the activist line of argument runs, suggesting cuts the
education budget must mean that one wants the children to eat dog food,
or read out of textbooks that stop at Nixon.
This is a nonsensical argument that the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat anticipated when he wrote "we object to a state-sponsored education, so the socialists say we are against education...it is as though the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting people to eat because we do not want the State to raise grain."
The problems with California's
school system have nothing to do with funding -- as already mentioned,
40 percent of the budget is consumed by education spending. However, it is
easy to mistake funding for the issue when heartrending stories about
children trapped in failing schools hit the news reels. Moreover, local
issues make this massive budget expenditure seem bewilderingly absent.
For instance, as Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz pointed out
in a piece in National Review, "The sprawling L.A. district has more
than 700,000 children in 791 schools." Where is that 40 percent of the budget
going to, if this sort of abject failure is still allowed to persist?
The answer is ugly, and nothing to do with tight-fisted legislators, anti-intellectual sentiments, businessmen thirsty for the reinstitution of child labor, or other conventional Leftist bogeyman. Rather, the answer has everything to do with a reliable voting base for the Democratic Party -- namely, teachers' unions. These groups, which arguably serve a purpose in private schools, are a massive, parasitic drain on California's budget, and have already sunk their claws deeply into the State's educations system. Already, 87.5 percent of California's teachers are members of teachers' unions. The California Teachers' Association makes revenues which number in the hundreds of millions, and Los Angeles Unified, that supposedly impoverished place, regularly sacrifices over $30 million to teachers' unions.
And make no mistake, these resources are not spent on education. A Los Angeles Times story from October 17, 2008 reveals that the California Teachers' Association spent $1 million of their over $100 million jackpot opposing Proposition 8. Yes, that is right - the tax money of California's people is being funneled into political causes with which a majority of them have already expressed their disagreement.
This alone is an argument for curtailing teachers' unions power, but given the budget crisis, it is time to take serious action. Not being able to curb the oligarchy of teachers' unions, schools are making cuts in places that affect students more drastically, leading to potential for paperthin educational requirements, poor teaching and smashed dreams. The educational problems of California's schools have already become nationwide news, while her Charter Schools have become miraculously successful, which puts the lie to the notion of money correlating with good public education. It's probably obvious, but guess how the Teachers' unions feel about Charter Schools?
As such, these entities, which obviously have no intention of fostering good teaching methods and which are not even performing the traditional function of a union (countering producing cartels) ought to have their powers sharply reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Otherwise, we'll learn a very hard lesson about the dangers of letting the tyrant with the chalk control the budget.