California’s funding for education, under the leadership of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, seems to be severely lacking, if not nonexistent. As a student from the state itself, I had first hand experience in a high school where the population of 2000 students was originally serviced by 7 academic counselors in 2006. This number gradually dropped to 3 at the end of 2010 due to lack of education funding from the state.
Walking into the office at Irvington High School, I would be greeted with long lines of students waiting to speak with their academic counselor. A student struggling in a class might not be able to speak with their counselor for weeks, the time in which they have managed to fall even more behind. A senior frantically trying to get all of the college applications in on time would often have to send their recommendation letters in late, if not at all, simply because the student to counselor ratio was excruciatingly high. The environment at school was not one that fostered academic success. As the funds were cut, so were the hopes of education taking us to a brighter future.
In 2010, the University of California Board of Regents agreed upon raising undergraduate fees by 36% the following year. To the chants and protests of the students, the university president Mark Yudof stated that the state budget cuts left them with no choice but to raise fees.
This increase in tuition marked the end for many university bound students who have put in a substantial amount of effort during high school to make it to that level. The thought of a plaguing sum of debt after college discouraged many students from applying to a four year university. What resulted from this was a surplus of financially struggling students applying to community colleges and not enough seating in classrooms, ultimately leading many to quit their education goals altogether to settle for a minimum wage job.
If we are a nation with a government system based on popular sovereignty, why then are we voting into office leaders who will take away the rights of our generation to an affordable education. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to put education as a priority, yet we see that in the seven years under his leadership, California has been lagging behind, slowly stripping away our academic opportunities. There is no absolute guarantee that as governor, Democrat candidate Jerry Brown will fulfill all of his promises towards education reform. However, I’d personally take that risk over another Schwarzenegger. If we want to better the world economically, socially, politically, and environmentally, knowledge is not an option, it is the fundamental foundation that will unlock the solution to today’s international problems.
As we visit the polls on November 2nd, let us remember the wise words of Derek Bok. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.