Monday, January 7, 2013

Dan Walters and Education Funding.

Dan Walters.
Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee.  While he's not exactly eye-candy to look at, his columns are a great resource for understanding what's taking place in Sacramento.  He's a bit iconoclastic and isn't beholden to any particular interest group, so I read him to get an idea where California's going politically in the next 12-24 months.

He's behind the curve right now, simply because the story has changed so much in the past two months.  But he's catching up.  His column today notes that the California budget situation has gotten much better (this after the Legislative Analyst reported the same two months ago), and that the new issues in the new year are, amazingly, going to revolve around how to spend revenue, rather than how to impose cuts.

"Significant Budget Shortfalls Since 2001"
Cal Facts 2013
California Legislative Analyst
This will not be a small fight, particularly because, as he's noted over the past week, there are also serious and substantial efforts to revise Prop. 13.  Further, at the same time, Jerry Brown is attempting to change the funding formula for the educational system.  This would involve, crucially, increasing funding for ESL programs, which would be significant change for, at a minimum, schools facing a changing demographic profile. Dan points out these changes are possible because of the Democratic supermajority in the legislature (something that may not last long).

I bring it up to note that, for many Californians, the story regarding education has generally been nothing but cuts for a decade, perhaps longer.  This has led to fatigue -- the constant crisis has frustrated many, leading to a certain sense of defeatism concerning the ability of the State, ever, to provide adequately for K-12 education.

I sympathize with anyone that thinks that -- California politics have been anything but functional for thirty years and there's a sense that's crept in that the State will always be this way, and that serious change (let alone reform) is beyond the political's system's reach.  However, this time, it really does look like it's going to be different.

Finally, Dan's good at pointing to useful reference resources for people who are interested in governmental issues.  The graph at the right is one example of that, from the Legislative Analyst's "Cal Facts" publication.  For anyone who wants to get a foundational feel for these problems, the pamphlet is a good place to start, even if only for its explanation of the major propositions that affect (hamstring?) California's government ...