Higher Education cuts hurt California growth

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by Sanika Puranik, Archbishop Mitty High School

With the current national debt of the United States fluctuating at 16 trillion dollars, the country is understandably looking to cut spending in several areas deemed “less important,” or “less harmed” than others. As a result, education budgets across the country have been slashed drastically, deemed an area that could afford to lose money and not suffer as much. While higher education has suffered drastic cuts, no system has been more affected than the K-12 education districts. Removing “unnecessary” programs, creating overflow of students, and lowering quality of education are only a few clear negatives that far tip the scale in disfavor of the budget cuts. While true that education is a large cost and much money can be saved through lowering the budget, the negative effects of the cuts far outweigh any positive result it may have, hurting our country more than doing it any good.

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University of California-Berkeley students, source: Washington Post

According to the voter-passed Proposition 98, K-14 [including community colleges] allots minimum funding to the Californian Education System, allowing its’ cuts to be equivalent, but no less, to other branches receiving minimum funding. The proposition also states that the funding fluctuates based on the state’s fund revenues. According to the Governor’s Budget the total amount allotted to K-12 education is 68.4 billion dollars.

Since 2007, various states, which are each in charge of their own public school system, have been forced to cut several extracurricular activities, compromise on class size, and give less thought to athletics. Now, as the problem grows worsens, practically all of the arts programs are being removed, non-mandatory classes such as technology are being cut, and schools are offering fewer and fewer Advanced Placement classes.

As Education Next, an education journal run by Harvard University, notes from March 2008 to June 2012, 250,000 jobs have been lost in the American public school system. With dwindling resources, teachers included, class sizes are beginning to grow exponentially. A freshmen biology class in 2006 would have been considered big with 25 students whereas 35 students seems normal to the freshmen of 2012. This greatly increases the student to teacher ratio and allows students less one-on-one time with their instructor to fully understand the subject matter. It additionally sacrifices quality as teachers are overloaded with students and begin to sacrifice details or lax grading rules. Lower standardized test scores also suffer as quality of learning steadily decreases. As Billy Walker, superintendent of the Randolph Field Independent School District, which serves the population of an Air Force base near San Antonio, Texas, was quoted in a Huffington Post article,  “The concept of doing more with less is admirable, but there comes a time when there is not enough left to adequately and equitably educate the children of America.”

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The sacrifice of extracurricular, athletic, and arts courses has had a much more direct effect on students in public schools. A large percentage of America’s youth has been affected by the economic crisis in that they homes have been foreclosed among other losses. Drug problems and other substance abuse problems as well as obesity also remain prevalent problems among America’s youth. Programs such as physical education, after school tutoring, theater, and drama help students not only in cultivating knowledge but also in maintaining their well-being by taking them off the streets or out of dangerous situations after school and involving them in healthier activities. By cutting such programs, governments are effectively telling students that those programs do not matter. Furthermore it denies students the opportunities to explore different areas for their own enjoyment or for a possible future. Similarly, by removing classes such as environmental sciences or AP government, students are denied the opportunity to explore higher level courses or subject matter in areas that might potentially interest them. Thus, it effectively pushes all students into the same box and offers them little room to choose their own path. Additionally from a college application standpoint, by taking less AP and honors courses as well as doing fewer extra curricular activities simply because they can not be offered puts students on an unequal playing field as compared to their less affected counterparts in private schools or in less affected areas of the country. Capable students should not be denied opportunities as a result of budget cuts.

Though deeply affecting K-12 education, budget cuts do not stop there. College scholarships and funding have dwindled in number and are competed for by a much larger group of students. Potentially this spells high school dropouts as college no longer becomes a viable option. Also with the quality of education declining along with the removal of classes, students may not be motivated to attend school, deeming it a waste of time.

With governments claiming that K-12 is the only place left to preserve money without making serious dent marks in our country, it is clear that the government is wrong. With increasing class sizes and fewer offered classes being only two of the many problems, the bad far outweighs the good when it comes to education cuts. With money being taken from the very institutions that prep future generations of active citizens, the unfavorable effects will be dragged with along. Simply put, the solving the economic crisis soon would help but right now, there are students receiving inadequate education or contemplating dropping out of school as a result of budget cuts. There is no question that our government needs to cut funds wherever it can to preserve money; however, education is definitely not the place to do it.

Archbishop Mitty student Sanika Puranik is a member of Archbishop Mitty’s Mitty Advocacy Project in San Jose, California.  A leadership program working to improve the quality of life for the unfortunate in California and throughout the U.S.  Follow MAP blog articles and updates on http://www.mittyadvocacy.wordpress.com.

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