The Republican War on Education

It seems Republicans continue to hold up the new state budget in hopes of cutting about $400 million from education.

See this excerpt from the LA Times: 

Republican legislative leaders, vowing to block passage of a state budget until Democrats agree to more spending cuts, have proposed in secret talks to slash $400 million from schools, according to education groups that were briefed on the negotiations Tuesday.

School officials say they were shocked to learn of the proposal at a briefing on the state budget impasse — now in its third week — by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland).

The officials said they were told that, under the GOP plan, the money would be cut out of cost-of-living adjustments for salaries and other expenses and funding for the growth of student populations. The cuts would apply to schools with kindergarten through high school classes and to community colleges.

A Letter from State Rep. Chuck DeVore arrived in my mailbox; it was dated June 29 and was this diatribe about voting against attempts to weaken a “not unfair, nor it is too fact may be too easy” exit exam for California public high school students.

Chuck reports that taxpayers are investing $11,288 per student for education.  I think he is throwing in all school construction and materials costs, benefits for employees and the kitchen sink to come up with this figure.  The ADA (average daily attendance) cost averages to something between $7K and $8K in California which represents money going to the classroom.

What he doesn’t say is that Orange County schools in his district are well below the state average in funding.  Irvine Unified is among the lowest funded districts in the state yet consistently maintains high test scores because parents here subsidize the school district through an array of annual fundraising.  This amounts to a hidden tax on parents with kids in IUSD due to a failure of our elected officials to change Irvine’s status from a “rural” to “subrban” or even “urban” district (we’re a rural community of about 200,000). 

And now the Republicans want to cut education funding.  Time to draw a line in the sand. 

Education spending is an investment in our future and in the skill set of our young people who will drive the California economy into the next decade.  And the No Child Left Behind mandate, well under-funded by the Bush Administration, really teaches kids how to pass a test and doesn’t emphasize the critical thinking skills that Chuck sometimes accuses us from the LiberalOC from having. 

California ranks 29th in state spending on education; our education system has challenges other districts see.  We have large numbers of Latino and Asian children with special needs.  We have underfunded federal mandates with NCLB and special education that must be made up at the state and local level.

How about having our legislature start working with the federal government on the budget shortfall for education our taxpayers must make up.  After all, we’re spending about $350 million a week in Iraq. 


  14 comments for “The Republican War on Education

  1. Chuck DeVore
    July 18, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Dan, reading from the NEA’s latest report, (see:, page 57 of 129) California’s ADA per student was $9,708 in 2004-05, ranking 22nd in the nation, not 29th. It is higher now. Including other sources of funds and updating for a new budget year, you get the figure I cited.

    That said, you cannot believe everything you read in a newspaper. Remember, we are engaged in budget negotiations and not everyone is going to be playing nice as these work themselves out.

    All the best,

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    July 18, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Actually Chuck, I tend ot believe a newspaper far more than a politician.
    No matter how you slice it, California trails the rest of the nation when it comes to education spending. And Orange County is well below the ADA numbers even you cite. Irvine’s ada is about $5K, can we agree on that? I got my stats from a study done by Standford and will send you the link. But here’s something worth noting.

    Perhaps these rural districts with a high ADA could benefit from distance learning programs that could dramatically lower the cost per pupil.

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    July 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Chuck — this is the CDE report for the same year you cited. It shows Prop 98 funding of just over $7K per student.

    But even you have to admit, your June 29 letter suggested we should demand better test scores for the toal investment of $11,288 per student is misleading at best since a nice chunk of those funds go to education spending not at all tied to classroom instruction but classroom construction.

  4. July 18, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Dan, re: “Chuck — this is the CDE report for the same year you cited. It shows Prop 98 funding of just over $7K per student.” But, as you know, Prop. 98 funding is only part of the whole. The National Education Association cites $9,708 of ADA funding for California in 2004-05, ranking us 22nd.

    This is not at all what you claimed when you wrote, “No matter how you slice it, California trails the rest of the nation when it comes to education spending.” How is 22 of 51 (including D.C.) “…trail(ing) the rest of the nation”? [Perhaps you failed statistics? 😉 ]

    As for “Perhaps these rural districts with a high ADA could benefit from distance learning programs that could dramatically lower the cost per pupil.” I agree that that technology should be used more and have supported such in the past.

    All the best,

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District

  5. Dan Chmielewski
    July 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Chuck —
    California has the highest population of any state in the union yet we spend less on education than other states. We used to spend more than the national average and now we spend less than the national average. That’s what I was getting to.

    So, do you believe we should cut education spending to balance this budget?

  6. Northcountystorm
    July 18, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Dan but because, as the Assemblyman notes, you can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper(does that include Steve greenhut’s column/) I’d like to ask the Assemblyman two slightly different questions:

    First, is the Republican caucus attempting to cut the education budget as proposed by the Legislature and the Governor?

    Second, are you and the Republican caucus proposing cuts in cost of living increases and growth allotments and suggesting that those cuts are not cuts in education spending?

  7. demmother
    July 18, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    I would call 22% mediocre at best. Is that the kind of education system we want?

  8. July 18, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Can any of you point out any meaningful correlation between increased spending on public schools and increased academic performance?

    We have poured tens of billions of dollars into California public schools, and the return on that investment is negligible.

    Can’t the Democrats come up with any “educational reform” idea beyond “just spend more money”?

    And when you finger “our elected officials” for failing to change IUSD from rural to suburban or urban, who would those elected officials be, Dan?

  9. Dan Chmielewski
    July 19, 2007 at 7:36 am

    well, we’ve poured tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and the return on that investment is negligle.

    We have districts with crumbling schools, textbooks that are falling apart and most teachers don’t make near the maximum (which in my opinion is still too low). I’d like to se a return to education where critical thinking skills are fostered. Today, we have kids who are taught how to pass a test but don’t really know what it means.

    You won’t like it, but the elected officials list doesn’t include the IUSD board which has been fighting for this in a bipartisan fashion for some time. It doesn’t include the city council, as its not their job. The people who have represented Irvine in the state senate and state assembly have either done little to change this or have failed in efforts to change it. It should be a no brainer–a city with 190,000 people in it isn’t rural.

  10. July 19, 2007 at 9:47 am


    Again — how will just throwing more and more money at public education result in better educated students?

    As for Irvine’s state reps, they ought to make that case if they haven’t already — then we’ll see what your Democratic compatriots who control the state Legislature do in response.

  11. Dan Chmielewski
    July 19, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    All the more reason to elect a Democrat to the assembly and senate; maybe we’ll actually get some cooperation instead of confrontation without public pronouncements of effing with the other party.

    Matt — we don’t even spend the national average. Unless you and Chuck take pride in being #22.

  12. Dan Chmielewski
    July 19, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    OK, Matt .. I will bite. More money at schools means teachers can make more. The more money a teacher can make, the higher quality of candidate you can get and retain. More money at classrooms also means fewer students in classrooms. The smaller the ratio of teahcers to students, the better academic performance generally. Certainly a better enviornment for developing criticial thnking skills. Will ther ebe waste? Sure..just like there’s waste in defense, highway construction..political consultants.

  13. Aunt Millie
    July 19, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Cunningham is trotting out one of the standard talking points here, that the home schoolers, ALEC, charter school boosters, and supporters of public funding for religious schools have all used. There are many factors that have a much stronger correlation to educational success than the level of school funding – family stability, parental educational level, economic level, native language, etc, so you can always show many examples where high spending ( Washington, D.C for example) results in much lower performance than lower spending yields in Utah. Or parochial schools that spend far less on teachers’ salaries, yet have higher performance by every metric than higher spending public schools. If you want to take the example to its ultimate conclusion, just compare the amount spent on average on special ed students to the amount spent on gifted students, and compare their test scores. By the same type of logic, I can demonstrate that having large police budgets correlates with higher crime rates.

    My local school district has good schools, good teachers, good test scores, and relatively efficient administration. They also have a large cohort of teachers retiring, and the district does have recruitment and retention problems for the younger teachers who will replace them. I consider it a good use of my tax dollars to increase their salaries and give them better compensation.

    While we’re on the subject, I am also constantly appalled by the way that special education is run and funded, and object strenuously to the way that funding for the few, as determined in a twisted, adversarial procedure, results in a huge loss of revenue by the bulk of the population. Special Ed funding needs to be decoupled from the local school districts’ budgets.

  14. RHackett
    July 19, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Most conservatives I know claim vouchers would solve the issues of education. If competition was truly the goal of voucher proponents, then simply push for open enrollment. Do away, or at least modify, the area of enrollment rules. That way schools are directly competing. Problem solved–if competition is truly the answer.

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