Two weeks ago, a group of us parents from the Wonderland Avenue PTA unveiled a satirical viral video about the crisis in California schools which will be exacerbated by further cuts proposed in your education budget. The stars of the video are Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green and 90 fifth grade students from our school. Since that time, the video has received approximately a million views on the website Funny or Die, has been featured on over 400 news and entertainment sites, and was the subject of hundreds of national, international and local print and broadcast news stories. It's rare that a local school story universally piques the interest of The Washington Post, Perez Hilton, The O'Reilly Factor, Education Week, as well as virtually every news outlet in the state.
We received many moving letters from teachers, parents, leaders in education, school staff and students across the state who shared story after story of how your cuts to education will decimate, if not bankrupt their schools. If there is a bright spot in this very dark cloud, it is the determination of the thousands of education advocates on the national, state and local level who are fighting tooth and nail for California's future. Unfortunately, judging by your response to our video, you are not one of them.
Upon seeing the video, your spokesperson, Aaron McLear tweeted "David Silver's numbers are wrong" - making a reference to Brian Austin Green's character on Beverly Hills 90210. To credit Mr. McLear, our numbers in the video were indeed wrong. We said 23,000 California teachers had received pink slips. In truth, the number now exceeds 26,000. We also said the Governor's proposed budget would cut $2.5 billion in CA education dollars. Many estimate that number is closer to $2.6 billion.
Your proposed education budget includes cuts that literally promote higher class sizes, as $890 million (from the $2.5 billion) is taken from the K-3 Class Size Reduction program.
And by cutting $1.5 billion to "general-purpose" education funding you are now forcing individual districts to lay off teachers and cut back on vital school services like nurses, custodians, teachers' aides, librarians, not to mention art and physical education programs which have already been eliminated in many of our schools. Your proposed budget provides only "bare bones" education services to California's students and creates a public safety crisis for many of our schools as the faculty-to-student ratio will be too low to properly monitor school yards and hallways. The growing teacher-to-student ratio also wreaks havoc in classrooms, as teachers in crowded classrooms have little opportunity to give one-on-one attention to students striving to succeed.
But budget numbers aren't really the heart of the issue. Leadership is. Your administration doesn't even have the courage to admit you are cutting education. Mr. McLear claims you are funding education at the same level you did last year. Any parent with a child in public school can see that this is simply not true. When libraries are being closed, arts and music programs eliminated and classrooms are overcrowded with students, we can all see the evidence of these cuts every single day. In addition, every agency looking at these numbers including California's Legislative Analyst Office, The Education Coalition, The California Budget Project, the California PTA, and the California Association of Teachers separately conclude your budget will cripple education services in the state. California school districts are still reeling from the more than $17 billion slashed from education over the past two years. Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has publicly estimated that 17% of California schools could go bankrupt based on this proposed budget.
California is already ranked in the bottom five (46th out of 50) compared to other states in "per pupil funding," a key determination in judging the value of a state's education program. The question of the video, and more importantly, the question for you and the leadership of Sacramento, is how deep do you want to cut?
We are well aware the state faces a $20 billion shortfall, and that you, and the members of the California Senate and Assembly, face a difficult hurdle to get the state's budget balanced. However, your proposed education cuts will cost California billions in future lost revenue. So not only are these cuts unconscionable, they are incredibly short-sighted.
According to a study conducted by California's UCs, CSUs and community colleges, if two percent more Californians had associate's degrees and another one percent more earned bachelor's degrees, California's economy would grow by $20 billion, our state and local tax revenues would increase by $1.2 billion a year, and an estimated 174,000 new jobs would be created.
Today, we are submitting a petition to you, as well as members of the California Senate and the Assembly, endorsed by more than 13,000 concerned teachers, parents and citizens. These 13,000 citizens want to see these proposed cuts to schools rescinded. We strongly urge you to work with the Senate and Assembly on a creative and collaborative solution to this education crisis.
To put this in Hollywood terms, our schools need a hero to rise in the third act. Governor, we implore you to borrow a page from Senator Tom Harkin, who recently proposed $23 billion in federal funds to help keep more than 125,000 educators from losing their jobs nationwide. He did this not because the federal government isn't hurting -- it is. He did this because it is the right (and smart) thing to do. It will also pay off long term.
Governor, by cutting education, you're robbing an entire generation of students of the quality education they deserve. And unlike you, they will be back-- and one day will be asking questions about why their future was shortchanged by someone called the Terminator.
For more information, please visit SayNoToCuts.com.