The Terminator…A True Enemy of Public Schools and Children

 

By Joe Batory  

 

Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all from politicians, you get to watch even more irresponsible behavior. Consider for example the recent episode of California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who orchestrated an expensive special election for voters last November to decide his euphemistically entitled Live Within Our Means measure. This highly-questionable proposed legislation would have eliminated key portions of Proposition 98 which currently determines the state’s annual funding for public schools using enrollment and cost of living factors and which guarantees schools at least as much state subsidy as received the previous year.

 

Inside California’s politically charged partisan atmosphere, Schwarzenegger had performed his “macho” routine, regurgitating a bunch of tired corporate and conservative rhetoric about the need for fiscal restraint within “the bloated system” of public education. Supporters of the previous property tax cap (Proposition 13 in 1978) were elated with Schwarzenegger’s new proposal especially since the voters of California had put Proposition 98 in place in 1988 as an attempt to rescue schools from the disaster perpetrated on schools by Proposition 13. Without some predictable funding guarantee each year, schools would have been at the mercy of arbitrary and ideologically driven decision making by a political machine led by its puppet governor. 

 

More than anything else this became a question of Schwarzenegger’s political integrity.  In the previous year, Schwarzenegger had forged an agreement with the public education community by which schools would forgo $2 billion of funding they were entitled to under Proposition 98 to help balance the state budget. In return, Schwarzenegger agreed to share future revenue increases with schools. Yet here was the governor in November proposing to reduce the Proposition 98 allocation to schools by more than $1.1 billion each year according to the state’s legislative analyst.

 

Small wonder that the Los Angeles Times called Arnold’s Live Within Our Means proposition “a really bad idea.”  Or that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell termed Schwarzenegger’s plan “appalling.” Likewise, the Academic Senate of the California State University unanimously expressed its opposition to the Live Within Our Means act contending that this measure will significantly limit that system of higher education’s ability to effectively serve its students.  And the California School Boards Association offered this: “…California is in no position to spend millions of dollars in a special election when vital programs are being cut and so many of our schools are struggling to make ends meet.”

 

For the record, in the ten years that Proposition 13 dramatically curtailed educational funding (1978-1988), California’s public schools experienced a well documented and dramatic deterioration of educational quality. That is why voters rose up and enacted Proposition 98 as a counter measure to Proposition 13 ten years later.  Today, California’s public schools are still hurting. A recent report from the Rand Corporation noted that California’s schools were underfunded, its class sizes too large, and its teachers underpaid. Between 2000 and 2004, Proposition 98 provided for per pupil increases in expenditures from $$6685 to $7021. Is this what Arnold and his corporate friends argued was too generous?? Ironically, when adjusted for inflation, the actual per pupil spending in California from 2000 to 2004 dropped $509 per student.

 

So what was all of this about? While Schwarzenegger’s statewide approval rating in California had sagged to a new low of 40%, the governor began flying around the USA (Florida, Texas and Ohio) collecting $40 million (payback donations for his work in helping Bush get elected in 2004) to push through an anti-public education agenda motivated by political ideology rather than California’s needs.   

 

On election day in November of 2005, California voters soundly defeated Schwarznegger and his ideology.  The voters must have realized that California is already ranked 44th out of 50 states in education funding, and that Schwarzegger’s  Live Within our Means would have made California into America’s “bottom spender” on children and schools!

 

It’s all so much like another bad movie from this “third rate” actor doing his terminator nonsense with a parroted script written by his right wing and conservative backers.   Live Within Our Means went down in flames because the California electorate realized that it would accomplish little except to do more serious damage to the state’s public schools and negatively impact that its future.

 

Truly, this terminator needs to be permanently terminated.