By Ben Velderman
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Gov. Jerry Brown is committing the most detestable act of blackmail in the history of American politics.
The Golden State’s budget is in ruins, and Brown wants voters to pass a massive tax increase in November to help patch it back together.
If taxpayers don’t meet the governor’s tax demands, a series of automatic spending cuts will kick in. Brown has designed the most painful of these automatic cuts to affect California’s students by shortening the school year – by five days and possibly as many as 15 days.
Even more amazingly, union teachers would not be laid off, like they have been in so many other states. Gov. Brown is willing to sabotage education for millions of children, but he’s not willing to offend his political supporters in the teachers unions. How sick.
Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, calls the governor out over his “harmful ploy.”
“In what I think is aptly labeled the California Student Lockout, the state sets a new standard of a government’s moving to serve the government workers at the expense of its most vulnerable citizens – here the children of California,” Hanushek writes in a recent column.
Hanushek points out that if Brown’s tax hike doesn’t receive voter approval, there are other ways schools could cut costs that won’t harm students.
“If the school budget must be reduced an increase in class size would by all evidence do much, much less harm to students than shortening the school year further,” Hanushek writes. “If that increase in class size was accomplished by letting the least effective teachers (as opposed to the youngest teachers) go, the evidence suggests that students would actually be helped – and California might even move up from its current bottom rankings in terms of student achievement.”
But few union-controlled school boards will raise class sizes when the governor has already given them an easy out by allowing school districts to trim five school days (“furlough days”), pending approval of the local teachers union.
Those five furlough days are just the beginning of the madness.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed giving school districts the option of cutting up to 15 days from the school year if voters reject his proposed income and sales tax initiative. The significantly shortened year would help offset a multibillion-dollar automatic midyear cut that would be implemented upon rejection of the taxes.”
Hanushek cites the Capistrano Unified School District as an example of what parents and taxpayers can expect.
In its new teachers contract, “the district has fully accepted the first five day shortening of the school year,” but has also agreed to “reduce the school year by an additional ten days if the governor’s referendum does not pass,” writes Hanushek.
The Capistrano teachers union has agreed to a 1.5 percent salary cut if Brown’s plan fails, but that action “will not actually take place for two months after the referendum, allowing time so that it can be renegotiated. Does anybody want to take an even-money bet on how the negotiations will turn out if they are called into play?” he asks.
Hanushek concludes that if Brown’s blackmail strategy works, school districts won’t ever “adjust to a budget reality that is lower than their current budget.”
In other words, the larded up teacher contracts will be deemed normal and proper, and teacher union members will never have to make concessions over salary, retirement or healthcare benefits.
And if Brown’s strategy of “extorting tax increases out of the population” fails?
“The statement is clear,” Hanushek writes. “The students will be the first to suffer.”
We’ll be even more direct: Jerry Brown has morphed into Don Corleone, right before taxpayers’ very eyes!