Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Human Costs of General Obligation Bonds

Most projects funded by the $11 billion water bond can be financed by water users if they are truly worthwhile. Yes, I am talking about environmentally friendly water recycling projects too. All subsidized water encourages wasteful use.

Nearly half the state general fund is spent on education. It is virtually certain that this water bond will take funds away from K-12 and higher education. As a point of comparison, the $800 million annual tab for the water bond is more than the entire annual payroll of San Joaquin County public schools and it's over 17,000 employees or about 25% of the entire UC system's state funding.

The water bond is being pushed for economic development reasons, but I think it represents a decision between two different visions of the future economy. I am voting for the vision of a knowledge intensive economy that uses price signals to use natural resources efficiently. That means subsidizing education, not the use of natural resources.

Yesterdays pink slip announcements are a vivid reminder of the human impact of the choice between futures at the ballot box this fall.
California's budget crisis could cost nearly 22,000 teachers their jobs this year.
State school districts had issued 21,905 pink slips to teachers and other school employees by Monday, the legal deadline for districts to send preliminary layoff notices.
Not all the threatened layoffs will be carried out. The final tally depends on the state budget to be adopted for the coming fiscal year.
Last year, 60 percent of the 26,000 teachers who received pink slips ended up losing their jobs.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell expected this year's actual job losses to be high, given the state's persistent budget problems and the smaller pool of education stimulus money available from the federal government.
"These layoffs would be devastating to our schools, would harm our communities and would harm our education delivery system," he said.
California schools rank at or near the bottom nationally in academic performance, student-teacher ratios in middle and high school, access to guidance counselors and the percentage of seniors who go directly to four-year colleges, according to a 2009 report by the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The state's public schools employ nearly 307,000 K-12 teachers, according to the state Department of Education. About 7 percent of those teachers have received pink slips.
The layoff figures do not include classified school employees such as bus drivers, maintenance workers and cafeteria staff. School districts have 45 days to issue pink slips to those workers, and as many as 10,000 could be facing unemployment, O'Connell said.

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