More taxes for better education

A majority of Californians are willing to pay higher taxes to support public education, according to a recent poll conducted by USC and the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the poor economy, 64 percent of Californians surveyed said they would be willing to spend more of their tax dollars for a better state-funded education, whose teachers and programs have been cut.

California ranks 42 in the nation in funding per student, according to a news release by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times.

The 2011-12 budget signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 30 gives approximately $2.1 billion to K-12 schools from 2011-12 and 2012-13 revenues.

The budget reduces California community college funding by $400 million and reduces CSU and UC funding by $650 million each for the 2011-12 year, according to the California Budget Project.

The estimated expenditures through the state budget in 2010-11 on K-12 education is 8.4 percent, and on higher education is 6.7 percent, according to the Department of Finance.

The CSU system might face a $100 million trigger cut in January, H.D. Palmer, deputy director of California’s Department of Finance told the Sundial in November.

“Both the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance will have a budget forecast in by Dec.15,” Palmer said. “The higher of the two forecasts will be used to determine whether or not CSU will face another cut. If the forecast is $1-2 billion lower than expected, the trigger cuts will take affect.”

Communications major Micah Shafton, 24, said he would be willing to pay more taxes.

“I’d rather put my money into education than into jails,” he said. “Education is the most important thing you can have. (The government) can take anything away from you except your education.”

Some of the disadvantages caused by budget cuts that Shafton has seen are larger class sizes, which means less one-on-one time between students and teachers.

As previously reported, the campus is looking to cut about 4,000 full-time equivalent students (FTES), according to academic affairs documents.

One example is CSUN’s communication department, which faces a 25 percent cut in full-time equivalent students (one FTES equals five seats for students in classes) planned for Spring 2012, according to Bernardo Attias, chair of the department of communications studies.

The original target for the spring was 900 FTES. After some controversy and debate, the department’s new target is 540.

This new target has actually made the cuts almost 40 percent before possibly opening new courses, Attias said.

“Our department got hit particularly hard by the cuts because of the high number of GE courses concentrated in our field,” he said. “The dean chose to concentrate cuts on GE courses in order to protect courses in the majors. While I think this was a wise decision, it did result in our department getting hit worse than the rest of the college.”

According to the California State Controller’s Office, 51 percent of the California General Fund Revenue comes from personal income taxes in 2009-2010.

The California Budget Project shows the impact budget cuts have had on public schools over the last year through surveys by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and UCLA.

These include 58 percent of school districts reduced their number of instructional days, 30 percent shortened their school year by a week, 26 percent of schools eliminated programs supported by arts and music grants, 74 percent of schools increased class sizes, 65 percent reduced or eliminated summer schools and 50 percent reduced the number of counselors where there are already more students per counselor in California than most other states.

Karen Matsui, principal at Northridge Academy High School (NAHS), and mother to a current CSUN sophomore, said she would be willing to pay more taxes only if she saw evidence that their money would actually go to education.

“Cuts have caused difficulty in the operation of schools due to the lack of human resources,” she said. “At this point, we are at bare bones. It’s difficult to complete required tasks to provide a strong education.”

Barbara Scott, a science teacher at NAHS, also said she would shell out more tax money for a better chance at education in public schools.

“Kids can’t get the courses they need and have a harder time graduating,” she said. “They (education) are fundamental rights we have agreed to as Californians. Kids who get educated have a better chance of getting higher paid jobs.”

Scott has three children whom she put through college, two went to CSUN.