Due to the power of the initiative process, California's people have the ability to directly fuck things up without any interference from our elected officials, but that doesn't mean the latter don't do an excellent job of fucking up things the general population can't or won't handle. Today, I'd like to take a moment to talk about some of those things, as off-topic as it may be here.
I've been a community college student since the fall of 2005, when I started taking classes part-time as a not-quite-seventeen-year-old high school student. As soon as I was eighteen, I started full-time. I've got an excellent record, though my performance has been impacted by my depression ever since Prop. 8 got through, and this summer was the first since I started that I haven't opted for class rather than relaxation. So it breaks my heart to see the troubles my school's facing.
I initially registered for three classes -- 13 units, slightly over a full-time load -- this semester. All three were full, and the waitlists for them were full too, something I had never seen happen before. I managed to add a class and drop one of the ones I had initially been in, and I think that I was able to do that mostly because it was a night class outside of general education requirements; the worst-hit classes seemed to be math and English. (There's a sign outside the English department's main building notifying students that all English classes are full with full waitlists and advising them to register as early as possible next semester if they need to take one.) I know quite a few other students weren't as fortunate as I; during the second week of classes, I saw a number of them sheepishly go up to my German teacher and ask if they could add the class, apparently desperate. The teachers are having to be tough and drop people they would normally try to keep, and are using various strategies to do so. Whole departments have been cut down to the bare minimum; at least one disappeared outright last semester when the budget problems started to hit. My department, computer science, got it pretty bad; the head of department says she's advising prospective CS majors that to get the core classes they need for transfer will take at least four years, when it's officially supposed to take two. This is all in spite of the fact that they raised the cost per unit this semester, which should have reduced enrolment considerably.
The problem's not just in terms of how many classes are offered, of course. Other services are also reduced. My sister has dyslexia and requires accommodations to do well: this semester, she's getting them, but only because her teacher is very understanding; the people who are supposed to process her paperwork so that she can get the necessary support and equipment to do well have been unavailable and not returning calls since the semester started, and she still hasn't been able to get a notetaker as a consequence (there's official paper provided by these people that she can't get, and which is prohibitively expensive to buy.)
Nor are the problems limited to the lower-class schools. One of my classmates is still with us, he told me, because the local UC told him they couldn't accept him because they had as many students as they could afford. I don't know so much about UC's situation, because I don't go there, but I do know that typically junior transfers are fairly popular with them and less likely to be turned away than, say, freshmen. I also believe that the classmate in question has fairly good grades, so he probably was actually turned away for the reason stated and not because he's unqualified.
So far, I haven't seen an impact on the bus system, which I use despite its limitations (it takes me 1.5 to two hours to get to school) and depend on, but I fear that's coming too, because I know they lost money as well.
The thing that drives me crazy about all of this is that in the long run, it's making the problems worse. The more cuts education takes, the fewer people can get a good education, and the more people will drop out at all levels. More uneducated people means that the work that requires a degree of some kind goes out of the state, which means that the people here make less money, which means that they pay less in taxes and can afford to spend less in their communities. Less tax revenue means more cuts are needed later down the line, which means more cuts to education, et cetera, ad infinitum. It's completely idiotic to operate this way. The trouble as I see it is that we're not a system that operates based on the long term. Companies look for short-term profits, and avoid investing in the long term because it will mean short-term losses; politicians look for reelection, and avoid the dirty question of raising taxes in favor of borrowing and cutting necessary programs. The trouble is, we kind of need tax dollars to pay for the programs that allow people to become wealthier. Argh.
I used to like my state, overall. In the past year, however, I've become increasingly interested in leaving it. This is saddening.
(Incidentally, signature-collection is under way to get a measure on the ballot to help combat the budget crisis -- by legalizing marijuana, taxing its sale, and releasing the people incarcerated for using or selling it. I approve of the general idea, because I see no logical reason to treat marijuana as worse than alcohol or tobacco, but at the same time if the people of California decide to allow me to smoke weed after what they denied me last election, I'm going to have a good bit of fun with the ridiculousness of it. Hallucinogen use: possibly okay. Affirming one's commitment to a long-term relationship: not okay!)