CRP Blog

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Governor Seizes Opportunity to Advance Reform

Speaking to the legislature today, Governor Schwarzenegger gave a solid speech that will hopefully give momentum to the effort to close the state's budget deficit and put California on solid financial ground going forward.

Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly sacrificed a great deal by entering politics. Here's a Hollywood star, recognizable around the world, who put aside a movie career to enter the punishing world of politics and government.

He is clearly someone who didn't enter politics in order to get famous, or obtain power and influence, or to punch a clock. In this way, he was the polar opposite of career politician Gray Davis.

For this reason it's easy to see why long term reform has been at the center of his agenda since he was elected. Granted, this drive has taken all kinds of twists and turns, but the mission of reforming government and leaving the state better than when he entered office is an unmistakable motivator for this political leader.

That drive for reform and lasting change took center stage with today's speech to the legislature where the Governor made the case for the cuts he has presented, but also made the even more compelling case for why now is the time to make the reforms we all know are necessary. If people are going to have to suffer because of these cuts, and there is no doubt some will, let's at least make sure we get some positive, common sense reforms out of it. To me, that’s what I heard the Governor saying.

For instance, there is no compelling reason for the state to make it difficult, as it does, for school districts to choose for themselves who mows the lawn or serves lunch. School district officials are perfectly capable of making those decisions for themselves, but the state, in a giveaway to labor union officials, makes it nearly impossible for districts to shop around for who provides those services. And we all know the motive: if those services are provided by district employees they're likely to be unionized, while the small businesses who might be contracted to provide the same service may not be. This doesn’t have anything to do with education - it's just about the politics.

This was irrational decision-making when the economy was roaring, and now with the economy in the tank it's economic and educational malpractice. How many teachers should be laid off because the state forces schools to pay inflated prices for services that have nothing to do with educating kids? This is no longer a matter of convenience - it's about making sure we're minimizing the pain in the classroom.

Governor Schwarzenegger has rightly noticed that too many decisions in education center around what’s best for adults, rather than kids. Maybe -just maybe - we can get some reforms out of this crisis that will allow our neighborhood schools to do what’s in kids' interest: lowering costs by shopping around for services so we can keep the cuts away from the classroom.

Many other solid reform proposals abound: such as performance-based budgeting, and measuring for results before programs are reauthorized. Republicans are on the right track by advancing these ideas so once this crisis is behind us, our government is performing a better job at lower costs for all of us.

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