Aside from the basic fact that free public education has been the major factor in developing a participating and enlightened citizenry over the past 100 years, it makes good economic sense for a state to develop and maintain quality public schools. Statistics verify this repeatedly. Aside from the state's business tax structure, good schools are a prime drawing card in attracting new economic activity.
California is now in the process of killing the educational goose that has the potential to lay golden economic eggs. Our public school system is being strangled to death by the gradual erosion of its funds. The result of this unwillingness to invest in our state's future will be the continued deterioration of our schools and, if we can believe the well-established data, bring our economic growth to a grinding halt. Even disregarding the importance and the basic right of our children to obtain a quality education, it doesn't make sound economic sense to allow our schools to deteriorate.
In Orange County, we have difficulty understanding that this problem, which has already impacted many other parts of the state, is right around the corner for us. Our school facilities are relatively attractive, our teachers are competent, and our student achievement tests show academic production to be above both state and national averages. However, if the current trends continue, our facilities will soon be in disrepair, we will lose our capacity to attract good teachers and our students will show dramatic declines in achievement.
California has now slipped to 42nd among the 50 states in the percentage of its resources being devoted to education. New York, with similar economic conditions, spends 60% more on each of its students.
Some Californians are under the illusion that the state lottery has helped solve the educational funding crisis. The "windfall" of lottery money amounts to less than 3% of school revenues, and this has been more than offset by the general reduction of funds from the state.
And now our schools are faced with the latest insult. The governor's 1987-88 budget not only cuts many programs for students with special needs, such as the Gifted Child Program, but grants the equivalent of a 1% increase to cover rising costs. With increasing costs in areas such as energy and liability insurance, our school district requires a 6.8% increase just to stay even. The new budget will mean another 5% cut in educational programs to balance current local budgets. Most district budgets have already been pared to the bone because of necessary major cuts over the past five years because of eroding funds.
The fiscal strangulation of our schools will stop only when the people of California send a clear message to the governor and the Legislature that enough is enough, that they need to reevaluate their budget priorities.
Without a change in our priorities, we will be condoning the disservice to young people that is inflicted by a mediocre educational system and continue the process of killing the goose that, in the long run, lays the golden economic egg.
Ocean View School District