It is irksome to know that California legislators continue to look upon sacrificing the state’s education system and prison system as the best way to reverse the deteriorating financial situation.
Most Californians are familiar with the recent “trigger cuts” that have been whittling down the quality of our education system at a dangerous rate. A few weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a $6 billion cut from K-12 school funding in November although nearly 33 percent of a recent $1 billion spending cut came from K-12 education. To make matters worse, the complicated format of Proposition 98, an initiative that passed by a narrow margin in 1988 and details the amount of state money that should be allotted to K-12 schools, leaves open an arena of debate and uncertainty.
Institutes of higher education in California have been faring equally poorly, with student tuition potentially surging an additional 6 percent this fall on 10 UC campuses if California lacks $125 million in education funding for the upcoming year.
The large student loans taken out as a result of increased tuitions only further highlight the true extent of the consequences of wrecking the state’s education system. The Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the local Institute for College Access and Success, collaborated with three other notable organizations to find that nearly 68 percent of the young generation of adults believes that Congress’s foremost concern should be making college a more affordable prospect.
On the other hand, the crisis-laden condition of our state’s prison system is evident by the effect of Assembly Bill 109, a law designed to relieve the state of the burdensome costs of housing the large number of inmates in its prisons. The number of inmates released from California’s state prisons has reached an alarming 22,092 in a matter of eight months.
The larger dilemma here is that the subsequent moving of those inmates into county jails has created worrisome conditions of overcrowding and has left little option but for county jails to release the criminals with lesser charges well before they serve their ordered sentences, often after serving less than half.
In a simplified context, I believe that the general aim of educating an individual is to provide him or her with the skills to develop informed decisions and opinions. In addition, I view the purpose of imprisoning an individual who behaved unlawfully as a way of discouraging further illegal activity and hopefully helping that individual recognize his or her responsibility of civility. Seeing the role of the state’s education and prison systems in stabilizing society, then, I cannot help but question how slashing funding to both is deemed the best course of action in these turbulent times that lie ahead of us.
The California Department of Education upholds its desire to “prepare students to live, work, and thrive in a highly connected world.” No doubt, this mission will be difficult to achieve as students are provided with pitiful resources and school hours to master the increasing amounts of required learning material. And any chance of valley students successfully competing on the same level as graduates of the prestigious northeastern high schools and universities diminishes at a depressing rate.
On the same note, despite the fact that early-released criminals can be put in home detention or the Alternative Work Program, it is not particularly helpful in buffering up the rest of Californians’ confidence in the strength of their state. And any chance of criminals viewing the state’s prison system as a large powerful entity deserving of due respect become nipped right in the bud.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the California crisis occurring now will, in general, make budget cuts unavoidable, and on the same note we will need to appropriately adjust to modest changes to our state’s education and prison system. However, the near jeopardizing of the two systems that is currently ensuing and unfortunately growing makes it clear that the wrong aspects of our state are being targeted in an effort to tame the financial havoc.
I can only hope that some large discontent with the recent treatment of the two systems will surface once more individuals realize the impending consequences of wrecking them. No doubt, we will need to search for different aspects to trim expenses out of instead of the two that are essential for sustaining our state.
— Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society.