Californiaâ€™s budget crisis is going to require us to make some tough, but necessary choices. In doing so, we must look carefully at education, health and corrections funding. These areas will directly impact everything else we are fighting for to keep California operating. When we look at our education ranking nationally, and look at the need for health care among our vulnerable populations, as well as the spending we have invested in corrections our priorities have to be made clear.
In a recent San Francisco Chronicle opinion editorial, Maya Harris, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California, highlighted prison versus education spending.Â Harris predicted that the proposed cost savings strategies would adversely affect the future of our state. California currently ranks 47th in the nation for per pupil spending in education.Â According to Harris, â€œover the next five years, the state's budget for locking up people will rise by 9 percent annually, compared with its spending on higher education, which will rise only by 5 percent.â€ The fact that California spends more incarcerating its population than it does on providing higher education is not something to be proud of, especially in light of a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California that revealed Californiaâ€™s need for college educated workers is outpacing the stateâ€™s ability to produce a well trained workforce.
Education is the foundation of our society, and while children are being forced to use outdated text books and sit in over-crowded class rooms, taxpayers are paying a significant amount to keep non-violent offenders incarcerated.Â According to a recent report released by the California Faculty Association at Cal State Los Angeles, California ranks next to last in states where the adult population has at least a high school education.Â Are we in effect jeopardizing our ability to educate a workforce with 21st century skills necessary to compete in the global economy?Â
In the wake of the proposed devastating cuts to public education, I am proud to support legislation such as Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torricoâ€™s AB 656, which would expand funding for community colleges, the California State University and University of California through funds generated by a new oil severance tax. California is the third-largest oil producing state in the country and is the only state where oil is extracted without a tax. I feel confident that the Assembly Democratic Legislative caucus will advance a budget that will place responsibility on a broader base of Californians to do their part to help resolve our statewide financial challenges. Â We will fight to make sure a brighter day is on the horizon. We must have a budget that preserves institutions Californians depend on, ensures Â our federal matching funds are not jeopardized, Â protects local government funding, closes Â tax loop holes and increases Â compliance to ensure increased funding. We will be better served tomorrow by the sacrifices we all make today.