I read an article in The Orange County Register that left me shaking my head. A columnist, Joe Mathews, suggested allowing students in California to control large district and state education budgets.
It is a colossally bad idea. It is a ridiculously bad idea. It is such a bad idea that I can’t believe he had the audacity to publicly articulate it.
California education finances are an unholy mess — with incomprehensible budget formulas, equity funding that doesn’t produce equity, and cuts to schools even during the current economic expansion. And our state’s so-called education leaders refuse to fix the system.
We should let the kids fix it instead.
This isn’t a modest proposal: I’m as serious as a month’s detention. To fashion something workable from California’s broken education-funding system, we should give budget powers to the students themselves.
It’s not a radical idea. Students already make financial decisions in schools in San Jose, Sacramento, Phoenix and Chicago — often about school-site capital spending — as part of a popular process called participatory budgeting. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently gave all his city’s public high schools these budget powers.
Typically, students in these processes spend less than $100,000 (though Paris, France allows students to allocate $10 million). But given California’s problems, we should expand participatory budgeting for bigger budgets at the district and statewide level.
You might argue that decisions about the $80 billion that California spends annually on schools should be made exclusively by adults.
Except that we’ve already let the adults do it, and it would be impossible for the kids to do worse.
Some obvious problems here: 1. Kids pay very, very little in taxes. Why in the world should a group who does little to fund the schools control the budget? They shouldn’t. 2. Kids are not accountable to taxpayers, elected officials are.
The claim that “adults” have had a chance to make decisions is a ridiculous notion. The problem is that the wrong adults with the wrong ideas have the majority in the California legislature. California, from this Midwestern’s perspective, seems to be run by people who think money grows on trees.
How about putting fiscally-disciplined adults in charge? By that, I mean adults who know how to budget. These are would run the state’s budget like they run their household budget or business budget.
If you put those people in charge that will clear up budgetary messes. Putting kids who lack life experience, maturity, budgetary knowledge, and wisdom in charge of education budgets would be a disaster.