Californians are being treated to an emotional debate over school funding, which means, of course, that a sober, factual discussion is not happening.
The debate as it's playing out in newspapers and television is not particularly helpful to anyone seeking to find out the best solution as to how to fund education in California. Teachers are demonstrating, which is good for visuals, but not particularly informative.
Item: teachers around Watsonville decided to grade students' papers in a public place, so according to Donna Jones in the Sentinel: "By doing the jobs in public, the teachers hoped to call attention to the growing pile of work that spills into unpaid hours."
Did they not know when they took the job that they'd have to grade homework?
Meanwhile, Republicans just stick right on message, saying: "No new taxes." It gets to the point when you just tune them out.
Actually, there are some good reasons not to just reflexively raise taxes. After all, it was out-of-control spending that got us here. For a better understanding of how the California Legislature blew it when it came to wasting money back during the boom, check out this op-ed by Allysia Finley in The Wall Street Journal:
"The stock market run-up stuffed state and local coffers—but lawmakers decided not to save any of the surplus cash for a rainy day. Between 2004 and 2007, the state increased K-12 and community college funding to $56 billion from $47 billion. Even as student enrollment declined, schools added 4,000 teaching, 2,100 administrative and 5,200 student-support jobs. Meanwhile, school districts that experienced a boom in property-tax revenue increased teacher benefits and salaries."
The problem with the debate over teachers and education is that it's being discussed as a solitary issue. It's not. California just ordered 70 state parks to shut. A whole host of other cuts are upcoming -- including to poverty programs.
Some say: "Just raise taxes on the wealthy." That sounds great, but California already relies too much on one funding source -- high-end income. That's why a recession affects state revenues so much: the wealthy don't make as much money. The budget suffers.
What California needs is a wider spread of taxation. The more people who pay, the more stable the revenue. But as long as Democrats say "Tax the wealthy" and Republicans say "No new taxes," the budget picture won't improve -- for schools, teachers or anyone else.