The Golden State isn’t shining so brightly these days. With an expected state deficit of over $14 billion, California continues to face what Governor Schwarzenegger recently declared “a state of fiscal crisis.”

In his Jan. 8 State of the State address, the Governator finally announced his plan to remedy the growing debt immediately by implementing 10 percent budget cuts in all general board departments.

This includes over $5.6 billion in reductions from public education funding for the 2008/09 fiscal year, namely $4.4 billion from K-12 funds and $1.1 billion from higher education.

As for the University of California, it is time to say “hasta la vista” to $332 million.

State universities and community colleges will also grapple with major changes as a result of the new plan. For example, Cal Poly has projected a 500-student enrollment decrease for next school year. The plan does not just stab at public education, however. Forty-eight state parks will be closed, over 20,000 prisoners will be released, and major cuts to Medical will cause many of California’s poor to loose their safety net.

According to the governor’s website, the plan will “bring the state’s chronic budget deficit under control this year and permanently.” And will do so without raising taxes.

Sorry Arnie, we know you’re optimistic, but this is so not going to happen. Even if the plan could balance out the deficit, did you think through the master plan? Let’s ponder the outcome:

What will happen when, once again, the New Year comes and California is not only still broke, but also less educated? What will happen, ten, twenty and thirty years from now as a result of the disparities in public education? How many people will have to skip out on college because of mounting tuition fees? And, how long will it take for state officials to feel the ramifications of a depleting public education system as directly as the third-grade teacher with an oversized class, and the college hopeful who just couldn’t afford it?

The governor’s website says that public education in California needs “more than money to survive.” How right you are, Governor. California needs to radically rethink and reorganize the system that funds and runs education.

Providing quality education, let alone education for everyone, needs to be at the forefront of the state’s agenda. But in order to do this (Sacramento, are you listening?), education needs money! The governor’s “Money? Who needs it!” attitude as expressed on his website is not conducive to achieving a public education system to be proud of. And, as any citizen could tell you, California has a lot of things to brag about, but public education isn’t one of them.

Perhaps it would help to look at this as a cycle. The stronger K-12 education we provide, the more students will continue on to colleges and universities. The more students who graduate from higher education, the better our state and its economy.

It is therefore counterproductive to slash public education funds in order to mend a sinking economy.

Admittedly, the fact that nothing is quite that simple puts the governor in quite the political pickle.

Repairing a gargantuan state deficit without stepping on any toes (or ruining the affordability of the UC, for example) is a toughie. But in a state with the 10th largest economy in the world, the ability to provide quality public education seems like a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, however, the state has spoken and cuts will ensue. Now it’s up to the UC Regents to decide how those cuts will affect us directly. Among the changes will be a seven percent student fees increase, as announced by the UC president’s office last week.

Does it seem silly to anyone else that Schwarzenegger declared 2008 the “Year of Education”?