Educators not impressed with state budget plan

October 6, 2010 6:27:47 PM PDT
Californians are getting their first look at the new state budget hammered out by the governor and top state lawmakers, and how they were able to erase the state's staggering $19 billion deficit.

First, the losers: The plan cuts $7.5 billion in spending including $3 billion from K-12 education. State employees would have their pay cut and contribute more to their pension plan. That's another $1.5 billion.

Next, the winner: Californians will pay no new taxes, and state colleges and universities will receive an additional $5.5 billion.

However, the plan also hinges on a rosy economic outlook and a giant $5 billion check from the U.S. government.

"I'm frustrated by the fact that this budget looks at trying to solve a problem without actually having to solve the problem," said Assm. Anthony Adams. "There's too many gimmicks in here. There's too much overestimation of revenues that are never going to come in."

The details come less than 24 hours before the legislature is scheduled to vote on the package which is already a record-setting 98 days overdue.

The new compromise budget has additional money in it for higher education, but not for the K-12 system. Those who hammered out the deal say there were modest gains there, but when you really look at the numbers, you see that schools will not receive what they should be getting by law.

That is why most educators are saying the "deal" is no big deal.

The state will pay $300 more for each student than what the governor was willing to give in his May revision. This means California will spend just under $8,000 this year to educate each child.

It sounds great, except that it is still $3 billion less than the state spent last year.

"Well, if you are getting ready to cut $1,000 and now you say you are going to leave $300 more on the table, that still means you are making a cut," says Dennis Kelly with the teachers' union. "That's all the state government has done to us for the past couple of years is cut, cut, cut."

Proposition 98 guarantees a specific minimum dollar amount for education. That will be suspended for one year while the economy rebounds.

"It was so that we wouldn't be forced to cut other general funded programs such as child care," says Mark Chekal-Bain with the Office of Assm. Nancy Skinner.

Now, childcare funding will remain intact. Many parents and grass roots organizations held demonstrations calling for the legislature to keep funding child care for working parents and the neediest.

"Without childcare and without the ability to have their childcare subsidy pay their provider, they can't go to work," says Jennifer Greppi.

Thant kind of pressure worked. Community colleges get $126 million for enrollment growth, meaning about 26,000 new students. On the other hand, the state will owe them $189 million to be paid next year.

"I guess the big question is, what is the legislature and the governor leaving for the next legislature and governor to fix in the next budget cycle?" says Arun Ramantathan with The Education Trust-West.

Higher education seems to have fared well. The budget gives $5.5 billion for the UC and UC state systems, while repaying them pay $199 million for previous cuts.

"UC and CSU is what fuels our economy in this state. Our higher education system is so important to getting us back on track and getting us out of this recession. So, that's why we put money there," says Chekal-Bain.

The K-12 system and the community colleges are meant to get what is owed to them next year. This is assuming there will be a robust economic recovery in California. On Thursday, lawmakers will have the final say on this deal when they vote.


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