Editorial

The recession into which the nation is sinking is hitting home in a big way for Californians; even our seemingly impervious boom times have busted, as unemployment is rising and the state’s tax revenues are down. In light of the declining state economy, the state is considering measures to tighten California’s belt.

Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed cuts for state spending in 2001-2002 take chunks from programs across the board — rail projects, cancer research, arts grants and health programs face reduction, elimination or delay.

Also suffering is education, both K-12 and institutions of higher learning such as the University of California.

The Guardian believes that while tough times necessitate hard choices, cuts to education should be a last resort, implemented only after all other options have been exhausted.

The cuts that Davis has proposed would undo many of the steps taken recently to improve education in California.

Much of the money appropriated under the Proposition 98 General Fund, which guarantees a set amount of money for K-12 schools, would be reverted to the state.

This would preempt an expansion of Healthy Start programs, take money away from charter schools in low-income neighborhoods, delay implementation of much-needed before- and after-school programs, reduce bonuses to teachers whose students show improvement on statewide tests, take away money set aside to assist schools with rising energy costs and deny schools a $12-per-pupil grant from the state.

The University of California will also feel the pinch. Davis has asked the regents to cut their budget by as much as 15 percent — this in the face of ever-growing waves of students.

Because the fiscal future for the university is uncertain, UC President Richard C. Atkinson has unfortunately had to put planned raises for staff and faculty on hold. Also in jeopardy are state-subsidized summer programs at UC Berkeley and UCLA, which are needed to accomodate rising numbers of students.

The budget busts even have the regents in discussion about sending some of the top 12.5 percent of graduating California seniors who are guaranteed admission to the university to community colleges, undermining the success with which the university can serve Californians.

Before taking money away from necessary and helpful programs such as those above, we suggest that the governor resort to temporary tax hikes to try to recoup some of the declining tax revenues.

We admire Davis’ commitment to California’s economic health and his willingness to make politically unpopular spending reductions in an election cycle. However, it would be more commendable to make the strong statement that investments in our state and nation’s future are worth more money from taxpayers’ pockets.

Californians have repeatedly named education as their top concern; indeed, Davis campaigned on promises to strengthen California’s ailing public schools and provide improved support to our top-notch public universities.

We hope that Davis remembers the value Californians place upon education, and the long-term benefits that quality education will bring our state.

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