The economy might be getting better for someone ...

... but I daresay that "someone" is not the typical student at a public school or university in the state of California.

The recent news about the impact of the California State budget on the California State University system:

The 2011-12 budget will reduce state funding to the California State University by at least $650 million and proposes an additional mid-year cut of $100 million if state revenue forecasts are not met. A $650 million cut reduces General Fund support for the university to $2.1 billion and will represent a 23 percent year over year cut to the system. An additional cut of $100 million would reduce CSU funding to $2.0 billion and represent a 27 percent year-to-year reduction in state support.

“What was once unprecedented has unfortunately become normal, as for the second time in three years the CSU will be cut by well over $500 million,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “The magnitude of this cut, compounded with the uncertainty of the final amount of the reduction, will have negative impacts on the CSU long after this upcoming fiscal year has come and gone.”

The $2.1 billion in state funding allocated to the CSU in the 2011-12 budget will be the lowest level of state support the system has received since the 1998-99 fiscal year ($2.16 billion), and the university currently serves an additional 90,000 students. If the system is cut by an additional $100 million, state support would be at its lowest level since 1997-98.

Two immediate responses to these cuts will be to decrease enrollments (by about 10,000 students across the 23 campuses of the CSU system) and increase "fees" (what we call tuition, since originally the California Master Plan for Higher Education didn't include charging tuition, on the theory that educated Californians were some sort of public good worth supporting), yet again, by another $300 per semester or so.

"Why cut enrollments?" I hear some of you ask. Well, because the state still puts up a portion of the money required to actually educate each enrolled student (although that portion is now less than half of what the students must put up themselves). So 10,000 less students means 10,000 less "state's share" expenditures. And, short term, that's a saving for the tax payers. Long term, however, it may cost us.

Those students circling the tarmac, hoping to be admitted to the CSU (or University of California) system as students, are only going to cool their heels in community college for so long. (Plus, the community colleges are impacted by the decrease in transfer slots due to slashed enrollments, and have had their budgets cut because of the state's fiscal apocalypse.) At a certain point, many of them will give up on earning college degrees, or will give up on earning them in California. And if the place where they earn those college degrees is less enthusiastic about slashing education budgets to the bone, these erstwhile Californians may well judge it prudent to put down roots, since it will make it easier to secure a good education for their offspring or partners, or a good continuing education for themselves.

I do not imagine a brain drain would do much to help California's economy to recover.

In possibly related "what is the deal with our public schools?!" news, the elder Free-Ride offspring will be starting junior high (which, in our district, includes seventh and eighth grades) in the fall. The junior high school day consists of just enough periods for English, math, science, social studies, lunch, and one elective.* The elective choices include things like wood shop, or home economics, or band, or a foreign language. But unless your child has mastered bilocation, there is no option to take French and band, or mechanical drawing and Mandarin. Plus, school is out at like 2:15 PM -- well before the standard 9-to-5 workday is over. Of course, this doesn't take into account how many parents work more than eight hours a day (and may be hesitant to complain about it because at least they still have jobs) or how much time they have to spend commuting to and from those jobs. The bottom line seems to be that the public is unwilling to fund more than five academic periods per day of junior high. The public doesn't even appreciate the utility of keeping the young people off the streets until 3 PM.

Verily, I suspect that only thing holding us back from abolishing child labor laws is that the additional infusion of labor would make our unemployment numbers worse, which rather undermine the narrative that the economy is turning a corner to happy days.

This lack of progress addressing the budgetary impacts on education -- indeed, this apparent willingness to believe that education shouldn't actually cost money to provide -- makes me a big old crankypants.
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* There is probably also some provision for physical education, because there is still something like a state requirement that there be physical education.

6 responses so far

  • Janne says:

    Time to relocate to happier climes, perhaps?

  • FrauTech says:

    I've seen the same reduction of the school day in the local high schools too and it's disappointing. I guess there really will be a generation gap between the kids in college and out of college now who were overscheduled, took a lot of AP classes, were in several sports a year and clubs, and the kids now who won't even have the opportunity. I do wonder why the parents don't put up more of a complaint. Maybe because unemployment is so high they don't have problems getting ONE parent to do the ferrying. Though most of the parents I know have one who is stay at home or a part time worker and they seem to think fewer activities will be good for the kid. But I feel like they are missing out.

  • vanilla says:

    Article calls attention to serious problems in education. Penultimate paragraph, though, seems to be a leap; but then, I'm not a professional logician.

  • becca says:

    a seventh grader needs someone home after school with them?
    I presume it's something like the school district only has so many buses to go around, and the presumption is that the younger kids MUST have someone home with them, so helping working parents means keeping the youngest kids in later. Because nobody plans to get pre-teens up earlier in the day out of logic.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I retired in 1997. Talk about a well timed move. Things are worse at my institution now (so colleagues tell me) than they were during my tenure.

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