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
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.