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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Two steps backwards

    It’s no secret that things aren’t looking good for California’s public education system. The state currently faces a $16 billion deficit and has found itself scrambling to make the necessary cuts to its already “spread too thin” budget. Unfortunately, budget slashing politicians and administrators are beginning to realize the severity of this problem and have set their sights on California’s public schools in an effort to make ends meet. As a result, thousands of teachers and school employees up and down the state have found themselves in the very unsettling position of not knowing whether their job, or even their school, will still exist next year.
    Despite the fact that California’s economy is slowly limping into recession and that some of the state’s school districts and university systems are facing multi-million dollar deficits, the University of California Board of Regents was proud to announce the appointment of new UC President, Mark Yudof. This announcement was quickly followed by a successful attempt at destroying any remaining level of trust between UC students and the regents by announcing Yudof’s yearly compensation package of $828,000. This mind-blowing figure is barely twice the salary of current UC President Robert Dynes, who ironically enough will be stepping down from the office after a series of accusations regarding overpaid executive officials within the UC system.
    The UC Regents were aware that such spending would most likely be considered irresponsible in a time of such financial turmoil, and Chairman Richard Blum attempted to ease the minds of concerned students by saying that Yudof is “…expensive, but worth it.” Chairman Blum’s lackluster justification of Yudof’s astronomic salary fails to address the fact that one man will be receiving a great deal of money that could be used to help other aspects of California’s struggling school system.
    Recent events within the Davis community have revealed just how mixed up our state’s priorities really are. As a result, students at UC Davis are able to see the full spectrum of hypocrisy and irresponsible behavior of the state in regard to educational spending.
    Last week, Davis’ own Emerson Junior High nearly escaped closure through a 3-2 school board vote in favor of keeping the school open for the 2008-2009 year. Emerson Junior High was targeted for closure in order to deal with the district’s $2.5 million deficit, and it was estimating that keeping the school open will cost the district roughly $566,000. While $566,000 may sound like a large sum of money, the figure becomes much more manageable in the minds of concerned onlookers when they consider that Yudof’s yearly salary is $200,000 more than Emerson Junior High’s yearly operating cost. While some may argue that the school district’s budget comes from a different source than Yudof’s mind-boggling salary, the fact that these numbers are even being compared suggests a great deal of financial irresponsibility within California’s public education system.
    Whether or not they intended to do so, California’s educational administration is sending a message to its students — that newly appointed high salary executives are a higher priority than the state’s already existing educational institutions. Once again, the state has shown that it is incapable of properly prioritizing its educational goals, and its students will be the ones to suffer.

JAMES NOONAN fears the day when public education is viewed as more of an expense rather than an investment. Tell him what scares you at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu


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