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The new math, Sacramento style: Why we are in financial trouble

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POSTED December 20, 2008 11:51 p.m.
Increased education requirements + no money = how California does business.
No, this isn’t the new math. It is how the California Legislature and their cohorts in the Sacramento bureaucracy have been running the state for at least 30 years. It is why the state is now facing yet another crushing budget deficit — as much as $40 billion over the next 20 months.
A prime example is the recent decision by the California Board of Education to mandate all eighth-graders to be tested in algebra in order to achieve proficiency. There’s one slight little problem. It will cost up to $3.1 billion to prepare students for the requirement in the form of remedial classes and more teachers.
For any of you out there who are keeping tabs on the combined bailout-deficit tally — it’s some where around $16 zillion give or take a few trillion —  $3.1 billion is the equivalent of a sixth of the state’s education budget. Yes, that’s the same budget that is shrinking faster than the money investors placed in the hands of Bernard L. Madoff.
The algebra decision, by the way, was temporarily blocked with a preliminary injunction from a Sacramento County Superior Court judge. You’ll be happy to know that those that convinced the judge to issue the preliminary injunction — state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and the California Teachers Association — weren’t concerned about money either. No, they argued that the appointed state education board didn’t post sufficient public notice before its vote and that they had no legal authority to make the decision.
Don’t blame the board, the superintendent or the CTA. You must forgive them for not thinking about how the things they want are going to be paid for. After all, they have all the fiscal restraint of an irresponsible teen in a mall with their parents’ credit card.
The state board means well. So does the CTA and the state superintendent.
But they are on their own little world just like every other state institution, agency and advocacy group in Sacramento. Why should they worry or even think about other concerns and how they inter-connect with the need to pay for them as well as what they want?
The most important thing — bar none— is what they want. To heck with health care and water storage. Who needs the CHP and fire protection? After all, you have the trump card to play — “the children are our future.”
Don’t worry. Their future is pretty much assured because at the rate we’re squandering money their future will be as indentured servants of the government just to repay the debt we’re piling up in the form of economic stimulus and budget deficits.
Maybe what is needed is the return to the 1960s.
Roll back government agencies. Get back to the basics. Don’t assume that everyone needs to — or has to — go to college. Go back to a part-time legislature. Cut their pay down to $40,000 a year with no per diem but let them keep a $400 a month car allowance as long as they drive a car that meets the air pollution standards the state has adopted for 2020.
The reason California is too big to govern is because we’ve turned Sacramento into an elite playground.
Legislators no longer have to make a living doing real work. Today, if they do things that tick off their constituents, they give them double-talk at an appearance and move on. It’s not like back in 1960s when a legislator would go back to his district to work and would have to face the people day in and day out that he wants to tax and restrict with more regulations and laws.
A part-time legislature means they’d have less time to come up with ideas on how to spend money that isn’t theirs. As for having enough time to pass a budget, part-time makes a lot more sense. If they re making 60 percent less than they are now, there is going to be a lot of pressure on them to get back home and make some money so they can cover their expenses. It’s amazing how things can get done when you’re facing personal financial Armageddon.

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