Dig into pocket for schools

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    Despite California’s ranking as the fifth largest economy on the face of the earth, our public schools are woefully under-funded. According to Ed Source, an independent non-profit organization, “California continues a two-decade long pattern of ranking below the national average on spending per student.” Moreover, “when compared to other large states, California ranks last in school funding. California spends approximately $4,000 less per student than New York.”

    In addition to the inadequate state support, the federal government has failed to meet its financial obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. For more than two decades, the federal government has failed to honor its funding commitment as outlined in IDEA. Tragically, the current federal funding rate for Special Education is 17 percent, well below the 40 percent required under IDEA. Somehow this reality does not align to the “no child left behind” rhetoric that is shouted from the “hill” in Washington.

    Despite these facts, Santa Monica Malibu Unified has been able to provide a quality public education for our students. In recent years, the drop-out rate has all but been eliminated. More students are attending colleges and universities, student achievement is on the rise and we continue to strive to improve conditions for all students.

    It is unconscionable and unacceptable that the state of California is now looking to slash more than $5 billion in school funding during the next 18 months. Our schools cannot sustain such reductions. These cuts will leave all children behind, in particular the economically disadvantaged and students of color.

    The district’s projected $13 million shortfall is not the result of mismanagement, incompetence or corruption. It is the direct result of a state and federal government that is unwilling to adequately fund our public schools. Without additional new revenue, class sizes will increase, programs will be eliminated and jobs will be lost. Students, families and employees of the district will be the first to be impacted. However, the negative ramifications of such cuts will not be isolated to the school community. The larger communities of Santa Monica and Malibu will be jolted in the years ahead. As the quality of our schools decline, so shall the quality of life in our cities.

    During the weeks and months ahead, the citizens and elected officials of Santa Monica and Malibu will have the opportunity to prevent this calamity from happening. The city councils of both cities must find the will and the way to increase the contributions to our schools and the electorate must support the school funding initiative, which will appear on the June 3 ballot. The choice will be ours.

    Harry M. Kelley