California’s Failure to Invest in Higher Education Gives the State Little Hope for Economic Prosperity in the 21st Century Global Economy

As California’s leaders continue to wrestle with how to tackle the ever growing budget deficit, cuts to education and in particular public higher education, continue to be mentioned as a solution to economic tumult.

Such cuts would be a blow to a State that already has fallen from “trend-setter” in terms of education and economic prosperity for the country to “bottom of the pack.”

In today’s global economy, prosperity is no longer driven by physical strength, but by the brains of college educated workers and the industries that employ them. We’ve left the Industrial Age for the High Tech Age driven by research and development and creativity. In short, success in the 21st Century Economy will depend on the higher educational attainment of the workforce.

A new report released today by the California Faculty Association reveals that California has slipped into “educational and economic mediocrity,” giving our kids no chance in a global economy and putting our State’s future economic prosperity in danger.

California now Ranks 49th out of 50 states in the number of its adult population with at least a high school diploma — and the State has fallen from 5th to 47th in the number of its high school graduates that go on to college.

Look no further than the State’s massive reduction in higher education funding for the reason for the decline. Over the years, California has substantially reduced its investment in higher education and today ranks 21st among states, down from 11th in 1980 (a 40% drop in funding).

The report, “California at the Edge of a Cliff: The Failure to Invest in Public Higher Education is Crushing the Economy and Crippling Our Kids Future,” raises even more questions about Governor Schwarzenegger’s plans to further slash public higher education funding from the budget, which will prevent thousands of students from admission to college and destroy their American Dream.

This isn’t news to those of us who spend our time in the classroom and on campus and have to face the harsh realities of cuts first hand. We know full well what millions of dollars in budget cuts mean for the future of California.

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Fewer kids are going to be admitted to schools and fewer kids are going to be qualified for the jobs that today’s economy has to offer. It is hypocritical for the Governor to utter the words ‘we need job creation’ out of one side of his mouth while he cuts higher education funding from the other side of his mouth because you can’t create jobs when you are cutting the very institution that educates people to do those jobs.

We are facing the worst economic downturn since the great depression. At the same time precious taxpayer dollars are being wasted to preserve bankers’ opulent lifestyles while some leaders claim they can’t find the resources that we all know leads to more jobs and a stronger economy. It is time for leadership in Sacramento and Washington to acknowledge that education is not the problem here, but that it is the solution for digging ourselves out of this crisis. We need a real commitment to education from our elected officials.

Go here to view a full copy of the report.

Lillian Taiz

Lillian Taiz is a professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles and President of the California Faculty Association.

Republished with permisssion from The California Progress Report, where it first appeared.

Published by the LA Progressive on January 12, 2009
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