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Bill Swadley

Bill Swadley

Posted: December 9, 2009 02:52 PM

To Live and Teach in LA

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One of my closest friends, a brilliant, gifted, dedicated teacher at California State University, Los Angeles, was recently informed that because of budget cuts she is to be laid-off. In my conversations with her over the past few months (she knew this might be coming) something became very clear to me.  It would appear that “we the people” of California would rather take money out of the pockets of the most important and egregiously underpaid professionals in our society than pay a little more in taxes.

Teachers in California are being forced either off the payroll entirely or are being given so few classes to teach that they will need to find other work to supplement their already abysmal salaries. With unemployment in the Los Angeles area topping 10%, this is a sorry prospect for them indeed.

So rather than hit up the wealthiest Californians and most successful California businesses (like the oil companies) for a little extra dough they’d never miss, our representatives in Sacramento along with the Govenator are hacking furiously away at the public school system and other vital social services as if every well-off Californian has made it clear that they are unwilling to have their taxes increase by even the smallest amount.

I‘ve lived in California my entire life. I do well and don’t pay much state income tax (never have), yet I watch year-after-year as a supposedly liberal state congress led by a usually centrist governor fight and wrangle as they allow education and social services to suffer at the effect of budgetary deficiencies. Does anyone making more that a teacher’s salary in this state really think it’s fair for those worse-off than they are to carry the burden of our current economic downturn?  Obviously our lawmakers do, but they’re not representing me in this, that’s for certain.

This isn’t just about dollars and cents or teachers’ salaries, either. Along with cuts to education come  higher fees and fewer classes offered to students who can barely afford their current curriculum. It will cost them far more now and take a great deal more time to graduate. These people are the future wage-earners of the state. It doesn’t take an economist to tell you that the higher one’s level of education, the higher one’s earnings tend to be. It’s a no-brainer. People who earn more pay more in taxes and spend more in the economy. This is good for Caaleefoarneea, Arnold!

But for those who are in charge, raising taxes on the oil companies or the wealthiest businesses and  individuals in the state (and there are a great many of them) is entirely out of the question. Even though young teachers who have recently entered the teaching profession are losing their jobs. Even though Education graduates have no prospects whatsoever as they exit even the best universities with high honors. Even though everyone is in agreement that a well-educated populace has a positive effect on absolutely every aspect of the quality of life of a community.

Every state in the country is suffering along these lines. Many are much worse-off than California because they don’t have a ridiculously wealthy mother-lode of residents and companies to even consider tapping.   Schwarzenegger has the magic wand in his thick fingers that could readily alleviate all the financial woes the state currently faces.

The California Legislature needs to stop catering to the greedy, ivory tower residents that would put the likes of Meg Whitman in the governor’s mansion. They need to stop punishing the people at the bottom and in the middle with regressive tax schemes and unconscionable budget cuts by representing everyone in this state, not just their peers.