Be glad if your child does not attend a California public school. Be glad if you do not work for a California public school. Or a county in California, or the State of California. Be glad if you pay your own health coverage or your childrens' health coverage. Be glad if you do not have an emergency in California, say a fire or earthquake in your neighborhood. In fact, be glad if you are not in California right now. Things are bad. Really bad. Billions of dollars bad.
And the money must come from somewhere. So the theory is that government trims the unnecessary spending. Just as families change their lifestyles to fit a budget, so must the state. All right. Except the cuts come after years of cuts, and any family cut down far enough will find themselves living in a cardboard box beside a ditch. Any school kids want a nice color-the-walls classroom?
The cuts are so massive, millions of dollars for the county, millions for school districts, and the only real spending on that scale is salaries. People. There is no 2.5 million dollar paper-and-pencil budget in the schools. So class sizes go up as teachers are laid off. Two classes of 30 children saves a lot of money over three classes of 20 children.
For the state workers, they get mandatory furloughs and/or reduced hours. Yet the workload remains the same. The population that is being served has not changed. So those workers must accomplish more in less time or let tasks slide.
Then, as positions are cut, that work doesn't disappear. Just because a position is eliminated doesn't mean that their work disappears. So those with jobs, the lucky ones, must pick up that workload and somehow fold it into the already reduced hours. A friend has a difficult choice right now. Her department has been slashed so much that her forty hour job now takes about fifty hours because the support staff is gone. She is supposed to work 30 hours a week. She can either do mediocre work or quit.
Oh, and she hires lifeguards. Not something you really want someone to skim through.
Another money-saving strategy is to slash a high-paying position. Then go to that person and say, "You can leave, or you can take the position lower on the payscale." That person takes the lower pay, bumping that worker down and down until the one at the bottom ultimately loses their job. So the department keeps the high ranking skills, yet pays everyone less.
Needless-to-say, morale is threaded with barbed-wire anxiety. We don't know what will happen next. We cannot plan for the next school year because we do not know what will happen with the budget.
Solutions? If they were easy, we wouldn't be in this mess. But I hope we can start thinking beyond cuts. Or cutting money and services alone. For example, let's cut State Testing. Those booklets, procedures, and reporting sheets cost millions. Let's hold fundraisers, a bakesale for the State of California. Because really, the schools that depend on State Funding will hurt the most. Schools where families do have funds to supplement the cuts will get through this with less impact for kids. Your creative ideas? Post them here and I'll compose a letter to send to State Officials.
Time to think outside the box. Cause that cardboard box by the ditch doesn't seem so third-world anymore. Seems like it might be closer than we thought.
Oh, and what are your front-line stories working for state, county, education, etc.? How is your life, or your childrens' life, changing?
Hope hoping for brighter times.