Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Don't Waste the Windfall : School districts: Spend new state money on basic instruction and safety

August 14, 1995

This is an open letter to California's school districts. Don't squander the $1.9-billion windfall the state budget will deliver to public education. Spend that $315 per student on basic instruction and safety.

The public K-12 schools of California once ranked among the best in the nation. Now they rank among the worst. Something is very wrong; the low achievement of students on standardized tests is unacceptable. The new money should help at least temporarily and incrementally. It's the best the state can do now, though it's not good enough in the long run.

The new dollars will be tempting for school boards long frustrated by bare-bones budgets. Class sizes have grown impossibly high. Counselors, administrators, librarians, nurses, custodians and other employees have been let go or reassigned. Music, art and other enriching classes have been cut. Salaries have been frozen, reduced or given back. Addressing these problems is essential, but the need cannot be answered by this relatively small pot.

The spending plans that will result from required public hearings should put children first. Education and safety must top the list of priorities. That goal can be accomplished with cooperation from unions and educators. Some funds are earmarked for one-time expenses, such as buying computers. Every student needs access to a computer in this technological age.

Some funds are allocated for school building repairs, which are long overdue in many districts. School board members call it "deferred maintenance" instead of neglect when they put off painting, shampooing carpets and fixing toilets. Of course hard fiscal times required hard decisions, but years of delay have taken a horrid toll of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Some campuses have fallen into such disrepair that the physical problems seriously distract students from learning.

Two-thirds of the new money is unencumbered. That two-thirds could be used to raise salaries or hire more teachers to reduce class size, among other things. However, with the cooperation of unions, school boards should direct this money to such basics as books. Because of shortages, some students aren't allowed to take textbooks home to study at night and some must share a textbook.

California student achievement must not be allowed to sink any lower. The new education money should be spent primarily on the students. This is not a radical concept--is it?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|