From First to Worst explains the California state school funding with a central focus of economic justice. California did once have a booming economy and great educations were possible to be attained. In the 1950’s and 60’s, California’s schools were the national model. “There was a commitment to excellence,” author Peter Schrag says in the film.“California was the land of new opportunity and there was a wonderful historical tradition in that.” Today, California’s schools rank near the bottom.
One fact from the film that truly stood out to me was that the state of California was spending, on average, $27,000 dollars a year to support each prisoner while each student was receiving $9,000. Using a new system for tracking dropouts, California discloses a rate considerably higher than previously reported. About 1 in 3 students in Los Angeles Unified left school.
A sad fact for me growing up in Los Angeles is that California ranks 50th of 50 states in staff-to-student ratios. There is 68 staff for every 1,000 California students, 22 below the national average. Not only that, but California schools staff made an average of $24,134 a year in 2005/06.
California has more than 6.2 million students, almost 2 million more than Texas, the next most populous state. Besides dealing with the complexities of running a school system of this magnitude, California educators face other challenges. The state is near the top in the proportion of children living in low-income families.
I believe the true situation of economic justice in From First to Worst can be explained by taxes and what the public was misinformed about. The mismatch between who votes in california and who is served by public schools caused the beginning of the problem. Then the working class hoodwinked into thinking
taxes are bad. Finally it was not economically just because the distribution of wealth was unfair not everyone is paying their fair share of taxes.