The 17th century political revolutionary Guy Fawkes once said, “The desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.” Despite the fact that British historians may tell you that another notable quote from Guy Fawkes would be, “Hey, let’s blow up Parliament,” I believe his wisdom regarding desperate situations should not be overlooked.
Even today, in 21st century Davis, we can see how desperate situations force people to make rash and, at many times, foolish decisions. Perhaps the best example of this process can currently be seen within our own Davis Joint Unified School District. For anyone who has read my past columns, the desperate situation facing the DJUSD is clear –$4 million in cuts to next year’s budget. In past weeks, this seemingly bleak situation has forced the district’s school board to penny-pinch, and choose between several options that will each prove detrimental to the district’s overall performance.
Initially, the “dangerous remedy” chosen by the district consisted of closing some of the city’s schools and undergoing a massive restructuring in order to incorporate the students who were displaced as a result of the closures. The school board’s decision to forgo the closing of any secondary schools, along with a vote that will keep Emerson Junior High open for at least the next academic year, suggests that a less dangerous remedy may exist, and must be found if the district hopes to balance its budget.
However, last Thursday night, the district began to move in another dangerous direction that would inevitably prove harmful to the performance of Davis schools. At this meeting, the motion was put forward to roll back the salaries of teachers by two percent, effectively asking teachers to relinquish their yearly salary increases. The reasoning behind this potentially devastating motion is that lowering the salaries of teachers within the district would inevitably reduce the number of teaching positions that will have to be cut for the 2008-2009 academic year.
While the Davis school board is certainly faced with the difficult decision of cutting either salaries or jobs, the true victims in this scenario are the teachers. Most people would argue that primary and secondary educators are already paid sub-parwages in our country, and now they are being expected to bear the burden of widespread budget shortcomings by forgoing increases in their already meager wages.
Fortunately, this potentially devastating motion was not approved, as the school board decided it would be irresponsible to affect the salaries of teachers on such short notice. Unfortunately, the DJUSD is still faced with the monumental challenge of overcoming a $4 million budget deficit, while time and possible solutions are slowly running out.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that Davis is in no way alone in itseducation crisis. Across the state, hundreds of schools have received notice that their doors will be closing soon, and thousands of teachers have been released in order to deal with the drastic budget deficit. Perhaps it is time that Californians stop viewing educational spending simply as numbers and begin to view this crisis with the severity and attention that it deserves.
JAMES NOONAN cannot fully express how easy it is to write this column during California’s budget crisis. Tell him how well he’s doing at email@example.com.