The cost of shorter school days


Everyone agrees that Jerry Brown is taking a huge gamble, putting big automatic education cuts in his budget in the hope that he'll convince voters to approve his tax hikes in November. It may be a wise political move: Most voters in California seem to support education spending, even if they still (wrongly) think the state wastes too much money on other services. And they seem to like teachers, even if they think (wrongly) that most other public employees are overpaid and get overly generous pensions. In other words, if you ask voters whether the state needs more money in general, you might get a No -- but if you ask whether schools should be cut even further, you might get a better answer.

Still: If this thing goes down, California's got a disaster on its hands. Already, local school districts are making deep cuts in budgets that were already way too small. And since everything else is already gone, the main thing on the block is the length of the school year.

It used to be 180 days. Now it's down to 176. And it could go as low as 160. That's terrible for students -- you really can't eliminate class time and not harm education. It's also really bad for working parents who have kids too young to be left alone (and some of us have good reason to believe that even high school students shouldn't be left alone at home all day with nothing to do except get in trouble).

What do parents do when there's an unexpected furlough day that isn't a work holiday? How about if there are suddenly 20 (twenty) furlough days, four full weeks of additional time that the kids aren't in school?

Well, if it's a day or two they take time off from work if they can -- costing both worker and employer money -- or they pay someone to watch the kids, costing the worker money. This isn't trivial for any of us, and it certainly isn't trivial for low-income families. It means some kids will be home alone, which is fine for the Model Middle Schooler, but really, how many of them do we know?

And Jesus -- nobody gets four weeks of paid vacation time. It's already costing parents a fortune to put kids in summer camp for eight or ten weeks; add four more and I don't know what people will do.

So basically, furlough days are a tax on working parents (and their employers). Which means it's a regressive tax that his hardest on those least able to pay. And that's assuming the tax plan actually passes -- if it goes down, expect the furlough days to go up -- and the hidden tax burden on working parents to get worse.

Then there's class size, which is going up now, and could go up a lot more. I've volunteered in the SF public schools and I've seen the difference between a classroom of 20 kids and a classroom of 30, and it's huge. At the K-3 level, more than 20 students in the classroom seriously hinders learning. Even in 5th grade, 30 kids is too many for one teacher.

I realize there's not a lot left to cut in the state budget (although I think I could shift enough money from the prison system to fully fund the schools, but that's not even on the table). K-12 education is a huge ticket and is going to have to take big hits.

And again: As a political move, threatening to hack the legs out from under the state's education system will probably bring in some votes in November. But I agree with Calitics -- it's a really scary bet.


Or do they maintain the same pay and get even longer holidays?

Brown is using blackmail to try and ram his tax hike thru which is one reason I will vote "No" on it.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 11:23 am

Please see this article:

It's gamesmanship and politics for Jerry Brown to be arguing that the school year will be shorter if the taxes aren't approved. I am sure the SFBG just loves the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, but the leader of that group was right when he recently said: "This is a prime example of the governor using kids as human shields."

Posted by The Commish on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 11:30 am

All this money is siphoned off by greedy government unions. Our schools are no different than Muni- government union run. Of course Dems (unions) frame it as a reduction in school days...Has Muni improved with huge increases in funding?? Of course not- it's worse.

People are reading day after day about all the government union scams (Stockton bk today) on taxpayers - Brown's tax increase doesn't have a chance in hell of passing. Even if they threaten to beat up a bunch of nuns, it still will not pass.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

Yes, we cut teachers pay when there are furlough days. That's why it's seen as a money saver.

"Greedy government unions?" Give me a break.

Posted by tim on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

Taxpayers owe CA teachers $64.5 billion for their unfunded pension fund - that's a lot of money for the non-greedy teachers union.

There are a lot more than "teachers" working for school districts.

There is now over 21,000 school district, UC and state employees collecting $100k plus pensions- the school district number increased 25% year over year.

Let me repeat the word - greed.

More money will not materially improve education - that's naive.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

Giving them an extra week off, on top of the 15 or so they already get, isn't really solving the problem - it's massaging it.

I'd prefer they work more weeks in a year, just like you do. But for the same pay, or less! If we pay them for the full year, can we not get them to do free "community service" during that ridiculously long summer break.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

First Vallejo, now Stockton- who's next? Plenty more dominoes to fall...

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

so I don't begrudge cops and fire guys so much. It's the rest that is killing us, with their massive health and pension liabilities.

We need to strip out many of these non-core functions or we will go the way of Stockton and Vallejo.

As for schools, let's start with neighborhood schools again - that would save a lot of money and time.

But I don't like furlugh's either as that is kicking the can into the long grass. If we're going to make cuts, then make real, permanent cuts, not this pussyfooting around and pretending the problem is "temportary".

It's not temporary - the budget dificit is a permanent structural problem, and needs a real solution, not all this fiddling around.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 5:48 am

Cops and firefighters are the most egregious budget-busters in San Francisco. Almost all of the "city family" pensioners sucking in $100,000 pensions are retired "safety workers." And most of them retire at the age of 60.

There is nothing sacred about what these people do. The fire fighters sit around in their neighborhood stations and drink a lot. The cops are donut addicts.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 6:05 am

You all love cops until the moment they retire when you hate the cops.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 6:27 am

penpushers and bureaucrats on fat packages that we need to get rid of, yesterday.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 7:19 am

This is a regressive tax on working families. No wonder the teachers union are willing to gamble on taking this to the ballot - because this regressive tax wouldnt impact them. Sure, the teachers will lose out on days worked (according to you), but they'll save money on not hiring daycare!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

His much-vaunted tax on the "rich" is actually very mild, and won't bring in much revenue.

It's the sales tax hike that will bring in the real money, and of course that won't bother the rich who spend far more of their income out of state or overseas.

But liberals are so much in love with the "tax the rich" mantra and slogans about "the one percent" that they failed to notice that this tax hike falls mostly on working people.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 3:05 am

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