So here I am, trying to make sense of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised budget proposal for next year and how it will impact our local schools. The cuts don’t appear to be quite as bad as those he originally proposed in January. But if I’m reading this right, that’s not saying a whole lot.
Some education types seem encouraged by the fact that Schwarzenegger has backed away from a proposal to suspend Proposition 98, the state’s minimum funding guarantee for education. But that doesn’t seem to have changed the budget picture much. The governor is still proposing what one analysis called “historic” cuts to K-12 education and community colleges that total $4.3 billion, about $500 million less than in January. The revised proposal restores funds to programs like special education (and that funding kind of has to be there to keep us out of trouble with the federal government), but maintains cuts to specific programs like class size reduction. It also eliminates a huge cost-of-living adjustment.
Adding insult to injury, the governor apparently wants to eliminate schools’ guaranteed share of the state’s lottery, which was created to – you got it, supplement school funding. (Okay, so it’s only 1.5 percent of our education funding. But a billion dollars a year is a billion dollars a year.)
If voters reject this proposal, only then will the governor consent to raising taxes – specifically, a one-cent increase in the sales tax that could last until 2011 (but hey, that’ll be on your heads, voters, not his). Add it all up, and I’d say it’s basically a giant bird from the governor to our state’s schools and all the parents, kids and teachers who have fought for them in recent months. Oh, he’d throw in a little state “flexibility” to allow local school districts a wee bit o’ leeway in managing their drastically reduced budgets. But the budget numbers seem to reflect a bigger message: Start digging in your couch cushions for change, folks. (Whether that’s for the public schools or private is up to you.)
We’ll have more on this in the days to come. In the meantime, the governor’s budget proposals are here. The Assembly Budget Committee’s quick-and-dirty analysis is here. State Schools Supe Jack O’Connell’s even quicker take is here. And for another local view on this, School 94501/94502 blogger Rob Siltanen, here.