No doubt by now you’ve heard the governor say that his new budget protects education.
The governor proposes to cut K-12 education funding by another $400 per pupil, for a total of $2.5 billion, so his claim that the budget protects education is either a lie or he doesn’t know the facts around his own proposal.
The cold hard facts are that the proposed budget would reduce the revenue limit funding, the general propose support for schools, by $1.5 billion (see page 60 of the Governor’s Budget Summary.) When you factor in the cuts to child development programs, cuts to county offices of education, cuts from the K-3 Class Size Reduction program, and others, it adds up to serious cuts.
How does the governor claim to “protect education funding,” despite more than $2.5 billion in proposed cuts?
You’ll love this sleight of hand approach. First, he proposes to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline and increase the excise tax on gasoline. Now why would he swap one tax for another? Because excise taxes don’t count as State General Fund revenues, whereas sales taxes do. By swapping the tax stipulation, he is able to lower the general fund by $1.6 billion. Why would he want to lower the amount of the general fund? Because education funding is built on a percentage of the general fund. The lower the general fund, the lower the number of dollars that have to go to support education. This one change alone lowers the amount of state support for K-12 education by about $800 million.
Next, the governor proposes to revise legislation signed into law just last July in order to retroactively lower the funding for this current school year. Many of those in the Education Coalition believe that the state can’t redefine its certification of a prior year constitutional funding level. If that is allowable, what meaning is a constitutional guarantee approved by you, the voters?
The fact is, the vast majority of the current state budget problems result from past budget “solutions” that the state has not been able to implement. However, the cuts to schools have been implemented. Every dollar in cuts to schools approved by the Legislature and the governor have been made. Why is it fair to now come back to solve the current problem by making more cuts to schools?
The governor wants to cut 10 percent for administration. Most school districts have already severely reduced administration over the last several years. Now the federal government is implementing many new rules and regulations for its “Race to the Top” programs that will require an enormous amount of time to administer, an addition to the already burdened administrators. This could require additional administrators, not fewer.
California is in danger of failing an entire generation of children. For the governor to seriously claim that education is a priority is just not true.
The sad fact is that your School Board will be faced with making painfully hard choices in the next several months based on the governor’s proposed budget. It’s no different than if you had your income cut 10 percent each year for a number of years. Finally it gets to a point where the family itself is in real jeopardy. Today your school district is in real jeopardy. Unless the legislature has the courage to say no to this governor’s proposed cuts to our kids’ education, we may end up being a Third World country in just a few years.
In the past, your school district has been saved from some even more devastating cuts only because you took action to help keep programs that you cared about. Your letters, phone calls and e-mails turned the tide and helped the legislature and governor see that they were robbing our kids of their education.
Today your help is needed again if we are to be successful. You can e-mail Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro at Assembly
Bob Berkowitz vice president of the Del Norte County Unified School District Board of Trustees and a member of the Board of Directors of the California School Boards Association.