Flickr photo by Kai Chan Vong
The Public Policy Institute of California predicts worsening budget deficits, education shortfalls and lack of preparation for looming climate change in a report it recently released.
The "California 2025: Planning for a Better Future" report predicts the state budget will bottom out with a deficit of more than $20 billion in about 2013 before the deficit really starts to shrink.
California pulls in a lot of its revenue from "personal income taxes, corporate taxes, and sales and use taxes," according to the report. Income and sales and use taxes change as the economy changes, while the state leans less on property taxes, which can be a fairly stable source of income for the state, as compared to the rest of the U.S.
About 70 percent of state spending in 2009 was allotted to health and human services and education, about 30 percent of which went toward K through 12 education.
During the 2006-07 school year, California teachers were the highest paid in the nation at $63,640 as an average salary. However, the state ranked 48th in student-teacher ratio for the same time period with about 21 students for every one teacher, according to the report.
Math proficiency in students continues to rise, but Latino, economically disadvantaged and English-learning students' average proficiency lagged behind that of white students by about 30 percent in 2009.
The report suggests drastic measures in the interest of fixing California schools – like firing large numbers of teaching staff – may not be the answer:
School report cards based on achievement levels may not accurately distinguish between effective and ineffective schools. Schools with persistently low levels of achievement are not necessarily schools with ineffective teachers and administrators. In schools with students who enter with very low-ability levels but improve dramatically, the success of teachers and administrators is likely to go unnoticed by official measures. Until California evaluates schools on the basis of individual student-achievement gains, it will not be possible to distinguish between schools where teachers and administrators are effective and where they are not.
When it comes to higher education, it seems the state will also fall short in the near future. PPIC projections show that that by 2025, 41 percent of jobs in California will require a bachelor's degree or more, but only 35 percent of working-age adults here will have them.
On the climate change front, the PPIC reported just 7 percent of local governments have finished preparing a climate change action plan, 45 percent have the same measure planned and another 45 have no plans for such action at this time. Those who said they "don't know" were not shown.
The report also highlights the devastating effects of climate change predicted across the century:
Sea level is expected to rise 12 to 55 inches by 2100, and the frequency of extreme events such as heat waves, wildfires, floods and droughts is expected to increase. Higher temperatures will result in more rain and less snow, diminishing the reserves of water held in the Sierra Nevada snowpack.
Another water source, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, could damage local economies if rising sea levels and earthquakes compromise its levees and allow in salt water, according to the report.
The Public Policy Institute of California is a "nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank … dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research."