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Politicians may bill it as “free”, but government monopoly in education is big business that racks up considerable public debt. As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee observes, in recent decades California has issued $45 billion in school bonds now being repaid at a cost of nearly $3 billion a year. With interest the total cost of retiring the bonds will be about $90 billion. That figure is about to get bigger because “a $9 billion bond issue has been placed on the Nov. 8 ballot by a coalition of school groups, developers and the construction companies that profit from school contracts.”
The measure is Proposition 51, the Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016. Though it will increase debt, the educrats and their allies are billing it as the ticket to economic recovery. “Studies show that 13,000 jobs are created for each $1 billion of state infrastructure investment,” the measure claims. “These jobs include building and construction trades jobs throughout the state.” So the bond money supposedly trickles down into jobs, but only within a narrow range. Prevailing wage laws reserves those jobs for union companies, and more than 90 percent of workers in the private sector are not union members. So “free” public education is highly profitable for a select group of insiders. On the other hand, the whole K-12 government monopoly system is based on the trickle-down principle.
The late John Mockler was a wealthy lobbyist who became secretary of education and executive director of the State Board of Education under Governor Gray Davis. Mockler authored Proposition 98, the 1988 constitutional amendment that earmarked 40 percent of the California’s general fund budget for K–12 education. All that money, now some $65 billion, must trickle down through multiple layers of bureaucratic sediment before it reaches the classroom. Taxpayers might wonder about the results for students. Nearly half of incoming students in the California State University system need remedial math and English.