It’s dumb to cut education

Cruz Bustamante is lieutenant governor of California

California students have achieved higher test scores in each of the last five years. They have done that despite $9.8 billion in spending cuts in California’s education programs in just the last four years. And they have done that while California ranks 44th in the nation in spending per student, or more than $1,000 below the national average for per-pupil spending.

I want to say thank you to California teachers, parents and—most of all—kids, for working together, working hard and achieving results.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promised last year to give schools all they are owed under the voter-approved, guaranteed-funding program for education (Proposition 98), if they took a $2 billion cut to help balance the state budget. “Trust me” is what the governor said when announcing that an agreement had been made.

That was his promise. But in January, he told us he’s going back on his word and under-funding schools next year by $2.3 billion, plus another $500 million for teacher pension costs. Put another way, in the current school year, the governor made cuts in education that averaged $15,000 for every classroom in California. If he gets his way, there will be another round of cuts at midyear, for an additional $10,000 per classroom—a total loss of $25,000 per classroom.

In order to justify his actions, the governor has been traipsing around the state demonizing teachers and anyone else who has dared to point out that he’s broken his word to California’s children. It’s an old tactic. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the facts aren’t on your side, call people names. His posturing is reminiscent of a schoolyard bully.

Our kids deserve better. Our future economic survival depends on every student getting the best education possible. The world of stem-cell research, hybrid vehicles and global economies will not have a lot of room for the uneducated.

We cannot go back on our word when it comes to our children’s education. Teachers are right; the governor is wrong. He needs to admit it, keep his promise and move this state forward. Californians twice voted for a mandated minimum funding level with Propositions 98 and 111. As a constitutional officer, I ask Governor Schwarzenegger to follow the Constitution and keep faith with the people.