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California Budget Pinch Will Squeeze Schools

January 25, 2002

Re "Class Size Reform Eroding," Jan. 21: The Jan. 10 issue of Education Week includes a report card on public education in the 50 states. California is one of only three states to receive a grade of F on adequacy of resources. Our per-pupil spending in 2001, adjusted for regional cost differences, was $5,603, third from the bottom of the list of states and 21% below the national average of $7,079. (Other data showing California closer to the national average are not adjusted for the state's high cost of living.) Our student-to-teacher ratio of 20.8 is the second-worst in the nation and lags far behind the national average of 16.0. We spend 3% of our total taxable resources on education, seventh from the bottom of the list.

These cold figures have real consequences: shortages of qualified teachers; overcrowded schools; elimination of science, music and arts programs; and, now, erosion of elementary class-size reduction, arguably the most important school reform initiative in the last decade.

Our schools' situation is unconscionable in a state that constitutes the world's fifth-largest economy, and it should provoke deep shame and embarrassment among our politicians and policymakers. Of course, ultimately it is the voters who bear responsibility for the crime that is being perpetrated on the state's children.

Jose J. Escarce

Member, Santa Monica-Malibu

Unified School District Board

Santa Monica

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According to Gov. Gray Davis on Jan. 8, funding for public education was going to rise in the current budget. Now we learn that schools have to make drastic cuts in services and raise class size. Something is wrong, and once again the kids will suffer.

Chuck Trudeau

Shadow Hills

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I am a teacher in a middle school and was told that our school will have to cut $95,000 from our budget for February 2002 through June 2002. Our staff was also informed that next year class sizes will possibly increase and teachers may be furloughed for one week.

All the money that has been already spent to decrease class size, increase literacy and encourage college graduates to become teachers will have been spent for naught. Politicians have been quick to place responsibility, as well as blame, at the feet of teachers and school site administration but continue to provide no consistent support. The prediction of a serious teacher shortage will definitely become a reality. It will be our children who will suffer.

Carole Mastio

Teacher, LAUSD

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