There's such a thing as tightening our collective belt or making do with less. When that happens, Californians raise fees or close another public office for a few additional days or cram a few more students into an already full classroom without screaming too loudly about it. But something entirely different is happening now: California is becoming a state that lets down its elderly, its disabled, its children and its college students in fundamental ways that will harm all of us in the years ahead.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced another $1 billion in new state cuts touching all of those groups. The lion's share — about $530 million — are aimed at education. Close to half of that comes from school bus programs, and will be a special blow to districts such as Los Angeles Unified, where many students need buses to attend magnet programs or other schools outside of the failing ones in their own neighborhoods, and where few can afford to pay for their own transportation. To offset the cuts, the district will either have to tap its reserve, which exists to cover for major emergencies, or pull money from other programs.
As a result of the governor's cuts, fees will rise again at the community colleges and California State University, although generous financial-aid packages will ease the blow for most who need help. The bigger concern is whether students will be able to enroll in the courses they need. Last academic year, almost 140,000 first-time students at the community colleges weren't able to get into any classes at all.