Governor has betrayed California’s schools
Gov. Schwarzenegger has broken his promise to the children of this state by reneging on his December 2003 agreement with the education coalition and by introducing even deeper cuts to education in his proposed budget for 2005-06. If the governor’s budget proposals are passed, our Nevada County schools, like all public schools in California, will be forced to endure another round of program cuts endangering elective classes such as music, drama, and art.
In December 2003, the governor made a deal with the Education Coalition, which includes associations representing parents, school boards, teachers, administrators and budget officials, and classified employees. The governor and the Ed Coalition agreed that in the 2004-05 year, schools would forgo $2 billion to which they were entitled under Proposition 98. The Coalition understood the financial difficulty faced by the governor and demonstrated its willingness to be part of the solution by ceding this money back to the general fund. The governor agreed that after the 04-05 budget year, this amount would be added back into the base formula for Proposition 98; in other words, schools would not permanently be harmed by this one-year agreement. The governor’s current proposal deepens current year cuts to at least $3.2 billion and makes them permanent. The governor has not lived up to his promise.
The governor claims that in his proposed 05-06 budget, the state will increase K-12 education spending by 7.1 percent, implying that this represents a 7.1 percent increase for schools. It does not. A review of proposed spending and revenue shifts shows that schools will actually receive only a 3.7 percent increase for most programs. The governor’s budget summary itself contains a bar graph showing an increase in all funding for K-12 education totaling 2.2 percent, leaving California as one of the lowest in per-pupil funding.
Part of these funding differences is caused by a shift in property tax revenue from schools to cities and counties. This was made necessary because the Department of Finance underestimated the cost to the state of replacing local revenue lost by the reduction of the Vehicle License Fee. Therefore, the state proposes to shift property tax revenue from schools to cities and counties and then to backfill school funding. While this is an increase in cost to the state, this does not represent an increase in revenue for schools.
The governor also proposes to change the way in which the State Teachers Retirement System is funded. In the past, teachers, school districts and the state have all covered a portion of this expense. The governor’s proposal shifts the state’s contribution to school districts without any increase in funding. Funding for this proposal would come directly out of school districts’ general funds.
As a result of cuts to education over the last several years, the national publication Education Week reports that California is 44th in the nation in per-pupil funding and is more that $1,100 per student below the national average. This is in a state with the sixth leading economy in the world. While we have the highest student achievement standards in the nation, we also have the most diverse student population with more children learning English as a second language and more children living in poverty than any other state.
I am not an expert on school financing, but I am a school board member who is anxious to advocate for resources for our Nevada County students as well as other students in our state. Our local school leadership teams are experts in making certain that resources are spent in the classroom and that our administrative expenses are spare. Many of you have school district superintendents who are also the principal, the special education director, and the eighth-grade English teacher. Our teachers and principals are our program development specialists, curriculum advisors, and testing coordinators, as well as our instructors and educational leaders. We have reduced secretarial time, trimmed our bus schedules and reduced janitorial services. In my Nevada City School District, we have been blessed with support from the Parent Teacher Clubs, the Nevada City School Foundation, and very, very generous parents.
The purpose of Proposition 98 was to establish a floor for school funding and to protect that base from politics. Our governor’s current budget proposal, along with several circulating initiative proposals, are aimed at driving a wedge in the education community. This is no way to create public policy and no way to support the children of our community. Please help me in supporting full funding for schools by supporting full funding of Proposition 98 and requesting that our governor fulfill his pledge to the educational community.
Paula Campbell has been a trustee in the Nevada City School District since 1992. As Director for Region Four of the California School Boards Association, she also sits on the CSBA board of directors.
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