California K-12 Spared In Budget? Not Exactly
Soon after Jerry Brown took office in January, he warned California residents that the Golden State faced a $26 billion budget shortfall and that every state program faced cuts—with the exception of K-12 education.
But the outlook for the state’s public schools is nowhere near as rosy as the governor suggested.
K-12 education funding is slated to be nearly $3 billion less next year. Edgar Cabral of the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office explained why.
“I think that comes from a decrease in federal funding. California received an injection of federal funds the last two years but the biggest chunk of money sent to school districts comes from Proposition 98 funds,” Cabral said.
According to Cabral, Proposition 98 requires the state to provide a certain amount of funding for K-12 education. For the last few years that amount has been around $32 billion a year, close to half the $63.8 billion slated for 2011-2012.
But next year’s numbers are contingent on voter approval of extension of temporary tax increases. The measure was to be put on the ballot for the June election, but the state legislature has yet to approve that ballot initiative.
There will be a lot less money in the state’s coffer if the extension does not go through. This would no doubt affect the K-12 budget.
“The Proposition 98 funds would go down by $2 billion. We believe cuts would have to be bigger than that however and additional reductions to education funding are virtually certain if the vote does not pass,” Cabral said.
Brown had to do some creative accounting in order to keep state funding at levels close to previous years. As a result, next year’s K-12 budget is heavy on deferrals, which Cabral compares to using credit cards to pay your bills.
“Basically the state says to the school districts we have to pay you next year, and the school districts operate the program and theoretically get paid the next year.” Cabral added, “the state has been relying on deferrals for the last few years.”
The governor’s budget includes voter approval of extension of temporary tax increases. The measure was to be put on the ballot for the June election, but the state legislature has yet to approve that ballot initiative.
What does all this mean for Los Angeles Unified School District? The district’s 2011-2012 budget is a work in progress, but much like the state, it faces tough financial conditions. The district sent out more than 5,000 “reduction in force” notices to teachers in March but it is unclear how many of these teachers will be out of job when the new school year begins in September.
District officials released a budget plan in mid-April that has the potential to save 80 percent of these teaching positions and up to $304 million. The plan also calls for each employee to take 12 furlough days during the year, a move district officials said will save $144 million.
Superintendent James Deasy said this plan only represents a one-year fix. “The challenges 2012-2013 are going to be extraordinary,” Deasy told City News Service, adding that the district faces a budget deficit of more than $700 million for the 2012-2013 school year.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers, still needs to approve the district’s proposal, something that won’t come easy.
Union officials questioned the accuracy of the district’s budget proposal in a posting on the UTLA website. The union opposes the furlough days proposal, calling it an “extreme sacrifice.” The UTLA vowed to offer a counterproposal and negotiations are scheduled to continue through May 5.
It is unclear what sacrifices will be required of students and teachers in the 2011-2012 school year. One thing is for certain, funding for education, on the state and local level will be hard to come by in 2012 and officials will be faced with tough decisions.
This report is part of our special series, California in Crisis, which explores the personal, local ramifications of the state budget debacle. Please click here for more.
Reach Christine Detz here.