Prop 98: protected or cut?

As he promised in his State of the State address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger protected K-12 schools and higher education from cuts in his proposed $83 billion spending plan for  2010-11.

Or did he?

Some Democrats and the California School Boards Association are condemning the governor for cutting K-12 funding by $1.5 billion. As have other governors and Legislatures, Schwarzenegger appears to have manipulated the level of funding under Proposition 98, the primary source of money for schools and community colleges, said CSBA President Frank Hugh. “This year, it looks as though nothing has changed.”

Continue reading “Prop 98: protected or cut?”

Governor vows to protect ed spending

So much for 12-hour-old New Year’s predictions. In vowing in his State of the State address today  to spare K-12 and higher education from further budget cuts, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would make two of mine look foolish: that the state would cut billions more from K-12 schools and that he would seek a waiver the Obama administration’s stimulus regulations to further reduce education spending.

I’ll be happy if wrong, but am not convinced I will be. Let’s wait till Friday’s release of the budget to learn what he means by “protect” education funding.

K-12, community colleages and higher education comprise about half of general fund spending. The state faces a $20 billion deficit over the next month. Schwarzenegger hasn’t changed his position on no new taxes. Unless he can read President Obama’s mind, he can’t assume there will be a second round of stimulus aid.  So that leaves eviscerating Medi-Cal and human services and slashing the prison budget. Democrats won’t do the former, and Republicans won’t agree to the latter.

So is the governor setting up the Legislature to be the fall guys — the ones who cut school spending for him? Shrewd politics, for sure, for a governor on his way out.

Over the past two years, the state has cut K-12 funding by about $14 billion. This year’s budget includes $50.4 billion in Prop 98 funding, the primary source of money for K-12 schools and community colleges. In its November budget analysis, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said that, for technical reasons, the true Prop 98 obligation is $51.4 billion. And it projected the 2010-’11 obligation at $51 billion.

Schwarzenegger’s budget, benefiting from another month’s revenues in hand, may be slightly different – but probably not much.

2010 will be a doozy

  • California will be among the first-round losers in the Race to the Top competition, but the second time will be a charm. The state will come up big in the summer.
  • Congress (well, Nancy Pelosi) and the Obama administration will come to the state’s rescue again, with a subsidy of a few more billion dollars for K-12 and higher ed, as part of Stimulus II to ward off massive public employee layoffs. Then it will grant the state a waiver to cut K-12 spending below last year’s level, resulting in, of course, more pink slips.
  • Republicans will will preach more local control but not one will vote to make it easier for local districts to tax themselves by making it easier to pass a parcel tax.
  • The Ed Coalition, minus the California Teachers Association, will sue the state over its failure to fund adequately public education.
  • California will finally nudge out Mississippi and Louisiana to be 50th in Ed Week’s ranking in per pupil student spending.

Welcome to 2010, the year of doom. Continue reading “2010 will be a doozy”

Schwarzenegger’s Secret Santa

As long as we’re down to last-minute Christmas lists, consider Gov. Schwarzenegger’s. He’s hoping Uncle Sam will be his Secret Santa, with a gift certificate for $8 billion.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the governor will ask Washington for a big piece of  what would be the government’s second stimulus. And if the $8 billion doesn’t come, he vows the end of welfare as we know it, with the abolishment of CALWORKS, along with — listen up, big business — the rescission of the $2 billion in corporate tax cuts the Legislature and the governor himself snuck in this year.

No mention so far of education, although the Sacramento Bee reported that Schwarzenegger, as expected,  will seek a waiver from the Obama administration to reduce  K-14 spending. At the same time, he will cite, as one cause of the state’s troubles, the requirement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the first stimulus program, that states maintain their level of education spending — or face penalties.

The Obama administration hasn’t committed to a second stimulus package, but the House passed a $175 billion jobs and infrastructure package before adjourning for the year.

Districts abandoning class-size reduction

Faced with hard choices, many districts are opting out of the class-size reduction, the multi-billion dollar program launched by former Gov. Pete Wilson. California Watch has issues a report on the state of the program.

An excellent report by California Watch, a new investigative team of reporters created by the Center for Investigative Reporting,  should prompt discussion in Sacramento on the future of California’s class-size reduction program.

The report found that most large school districts had already abandoned the 20:1 student-teacher ratio that was the hallmark of class-size reduction when Gov. Pete  Wilson and the Legislature created it 13 years ago for grade K-3 and some 9th grade classes. Some districts have expanded early-grade classes to as large as 30 students.

Continue reading “Districts abandoning class-size reduction”

Feds could penalize budget cuts for education

In accepting federal stimulus money, California agreed not to cut current levels of spending on K12 schools and higher education. Facing a $20 billion deficit, California could ask for a waiver. Would the Obama administration grant it?

How much spending is cut for K-12 schools and higher education next year may be determined not in Sacramento but in Washington, D.C. – and perhaps by the White House.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor this week projected an 18-month state budget deficit of $20.7 billion ($6.3 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30 and the rest next year).

Using the roughest rule of thumb, with K-12 schools and community colleges receiving roughly 40 percent of the budget and higher ed an additional 10 percent, one would assume that education could be expected to absorb 50 percent of that deficit – or $10 billion. That assumes, for the moment, no higher fees and taxes and no new budget gimmicks (Haven’t we run out of those by now?).

But cutting education will bump against the federal government’s demand that states maintain their levels of spending for education in order to receive stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Continue reading “Feds could penalize budget cuts for education”

Funding suit’s goal: return to local control

In filing a lawsuit later this year challenging the adequacy of state education spending, the California School Boards Assn. and partners will have a goal in mind: a return to local control of K-12 funding.

In their long-anticipated suit over adequate funding, the California School Boards Assn. and its parter in the Education Coalition, the  Association of California School Administrators, will challenge the state not only on how much it spends on public schools — no surprise there — but also how it funds them. They plan to revisit the ’70s, with  its historic Serrano decision, which equalized school spending, and Proposition 13, which shifted control funding and power to Sacramento. They’ll argue that it’s time to take another look and this time do it right.

In an interview, CSBA  Executive Director Scott Plotkin confirmed the Mercury News story that the two organizations will file suit in coming months over the state’s failure to adequately fund eduction. And he outlined what will be the thrust of the suit: a demand to return to more control. They’re turning to the courts, because the Legislature and voters, by initiative, have severely limited locals’ ability to raise money. Continue reading “Funding suit’s goal: return to local control”