Budget sounds good for education, but is it?

May 16, 2011 6:24:33 PM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown still wants tax increases, even though California has found $6.6 billion in unexpected tax revenue. On Monday, he released his revised budget proposal. His plan calls for the following jobs to be cut: 5,500 state jobs and 43 boards and commissions would be eliminated. However, public schools would get nearly $3 billion more than expected. The plan also calls for a 1-percent sales tax extension and a .5-percent vehicle license fee extension.

Monday, the governor addressed his new plan and emphasized the importance of bringing down the state's debt.

"There's something infantile about the idea that we spend and then we borrow. Well in balance that's OK, but we've exceeded the limit and what I'm saying is the wall of debt has to be brought down. My plan does that," said Brown.

Brown says the tax increases will not happen, if they are not approved by voters, but said that if his plan is rejected, there will be other efforts to deal with California's financial deficits.

Now on the surface, the governor's revised budget sounds like it's good for education, but officials in at least one Bay Area school district are not convinced of that.

"The May revise is making me guardedly optimistic," said Mike Langley.

Langley is the president of the Mt. Diablo Education Association. Brown's revised budget would pump $3 billion back into education, about $3 million of that would go to Mt. Diablo.

"If the district uses wisdom and any revenues that do come in, I think that if they're efficient, we can see full school year, fully staffed and a lot of the people may be getting their jobs back," said Langley.

Faced with a $12 million budget gap, the Mt. Diablo School Board voted to send pink slips to 111 teachers and other employees.

"We are still going to receive less money than we received several years ago," said Board president Gary Eberhart.

Eberhart said appearances aside, the governor's revised budget does little to solve his district's problems. A proposed shift of mental health services to local districts would cost Mt. Diablo $5 million per year.

"They're just kicking the can down the path a little bit farther. They're depending on tax revenue that has not been established," said Eberhart.

If local educators can't agree on what the revised budget means for them, imagine how parents feel. That why's the Contra Costa County Office of Education is offering a workshop called "School Finance 101" tonight at 7 at its headquarters in Pleasant Hill.

"With the budget revised every few months, the governor originally proposed a budget in January and this was his revision to the budget that came out today, it's going to take a lot of analysis for people to understand what the impacts would be," said Nancy Vandell from the Contra Costa County PTA.

Complicating matters for local school districts, they have to have their budget done in June when the state likely won't have its done until the fall. Last year, the legislature didn't approve a final budget, until October.

School Finance 101 program
This program will discuss how schools in Contra Costa County are funded. It will be hosted by the countywide 32nd District PTA. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will appear.
Monday, May 16, 2011 -- 7 p.m.
Location: Contra Costa County Office of Education
77 Santa Barbara Road
Pleasant Hill, CA

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