Perhaps not surprisingly, the state of California announced this week it is $705 million short of first quarter revenue estimates, meaning so-called “trigger cuts” to the budget will go into effect. The only glimmer of hope – though dim – is word that school districts and Cal State and UC campuses have already been making plans to cover the automatic cuts triggered by this shortfall.
Not that the state of California can afford to commit even less to its students – it already spends less per student than 28 other states. But ultimately the responsibility for education – and how we fund it – best resides with local communities, and it’s time to begin moving in that direction.
As it stands now, local governments in California are too dependent on money controlled by the state. This is particularly true in the case of counties and school and community college districts, because they are held captive to state budget shortfalls and political gridlock. Local officials don’t have the flexibility or authority to effectively manage local programs and services, nor can they – or anyone — be held directly accountable when things aren’t working.
Giving more independence and control to local governments is one way to make sure state and local officials are held accountable for decisions on where dwindling public funds can best be employed and services most effectively delivered.
California Forward and its many supporters throughout the state, at the community and legislative level, remain committed to making effective local empowerment a reality as part of our program to improve the responsiveness, openness and effectiveness of public leaders and public programs.
Sandra Sternberg is part of the California Forward communications team.