Once every thirty years or so, we in California are fortunate in having a Governor with the courage to make tough decisions such as cutting enrollment and eliminating programs in the State College and University system. During my years working in that system as a budget analyst, I set up programs and fought for college positions to provide the means for students to gain a college education. To accommodate the 10% cut in the proposed 2008 budget, I was informed by the State College budget office that they are planning to freeze enrollment at 400,000 full time equivalent students. This would channel the originally proposed increase of 2 1/2% or 12,000 students that would have otherwise continued their higher education into different aspirations such as joining the army, body building or merchandising for companies such as Wal-Mart and Denny’s. Ronald Reagan was the last one to have this sort of courage and slashed our mental health programs when he was our governor, after all, these people can’t work and certainly don’t vote.
This 2008 budget reminds me of a story I heard recently dealing with morality and community. A couple of hikers met up with a bear on the trail. As one began taking off his back pack and prepare himself to run, the other reminded him that they could never outrun a bear. As he started his sprint, he pointed out to his companion that he didn’t have to outrun the bear, just his friend. Steven Carr Rubin tells another story of a six person race in the Junior Special Olympics. Shortly after the race began, one child who suffered from cerebral palsy stumbled. One by one the other contestants stopped running and all came back to help pick up the fallen comrade and walked arm in arm together so that they could cross the finish line together.
To deny children an education doesn’t say much for our society and will certainly come back to haunt us in ways that we can’t even perceive.