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COURSEY: A thousand cuts for education

Frank Pugh, the longest-serving member of the Santa Rosa Board of Education, summed it up simply in the story on Monday's Page 1:

"I hope the public really understands – they are dismantling, day-by-day, public education."

Pugh, who has been an elected school board member for more than 20 years, was talking about the latest proposal to save schools money – the elimination of a required second year of high school science. But he could have been talking about any number of educational cuts imposed in California in recent years: fewer school days, larger classes, cuts in funding for arts, libraries, counselors, transportation.

The proposal in Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012-2013 budget doesn't sound like a big deal. He would eliminate the requirement that California students, in order to graduate from high school, take at least two years of high school science.

But this proposal doesn't stand alone. It comes on the heels of all of those other cuts, and precedes what seems sure to be more to come.

Day-by-day and piece-by-piece, we are tearing apart the very foundation of the American dream, the notion that we all have an opportunity to succeed and thrive in this country. Without a decent education, opportunity is just that – a dream.

Public education has become a pawn in the great political game that is being played out in Sacramento this year. Gov. Brown has said that if voters don't pass his proposed tax increases in November, he will have to cut billions of dollars from public school budgets. Opponents of those proposed tax increases respond that Brown can make cuts elsewhere, or that schools should cut administrative or teacher costs in order to minimize the impact of budget cuts on students.

But, new taxes or not, the damage already is being done. As Kerry Benefield reported in Monday's story, per-pupil funding has been cut and annual cost of living increases have been frozen for the last five years in California, leaving districts with 80 percent of the funding they are entitled to by the state's minimum funding law.

Less than minimum. That's nothing to be proud of.

These cuts have real consequences on the education we are offering our children, just as the proposal to reduce the minimum science requirement will have real consequences.


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