One of the most pernicious aspects of Arnold’s budget proposal, which despite some long overdue moves toward new revenue still relies on way too many cuts, is its impact on public schools. As I explained on New Year’s Day, Arnold’s budget proposal includes this devastating proposal:
The governor has proposed to ease the pain, in part, by accounting transfers involving state transportation funds and by deferring $2.8 billion in school payments from April to July. Wells said the state, by deferring payments for three months, would place an “awful” new burden on school districts to secure short-term loans.
At the time I predicted this would have an extremely negative impact on schools. And now we’re starting to see it, beginning in San Luis Obispo County:
Three San Luis Obispo County school districts may face funding shortfalls through 2011 if Gov. Arnold Schwarzen-egger’s latest round of budget cuts pass, a move the county’s top educator said will result in “extensive” layoffs of teachers and staff.
“I would say it’s one step short of an emergency,” county Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker said Friday, noting the affected districts are Lucia Mar, Atascadero and Shandon.
Despite a double-dose of statewide funding reductions hitting schools at the beginning of the fiscal year and again in midyear cuts, the state requires that districts maintain a pool of reserve money. How much depends on how many students are enrolled.
What Arnold is doing is raiding school districts’ savings accounts. The delayed payment means they’ll have to dip into reserves. The ongoing funding cuts mean they will have a difficult time building the reserves back up. That will require laying off teachers and compromising educational quality. And in an NCLB environment that is a recipe for catastrophe, as schools will lose funding and Arnold can accomplish privatization through the back door.
The governor’s proposals would further reduce school funding countywide by a minimum of $14.2 million by the end of June 2010, Crocker said – resulting in a $48.5 million loss over the two years.
The countywide reduction represents a loss of approximately $34,000 per classroom, or about 15 percent of total district revenue.
Lucia Mar will lose an estimated additional $4.3 million, Atascadero will lose an additional $2 million and Shandon is projected to lose an additional $126,000 in ongoing revenue sources.
Shandon, a small town east of Paso Robles on Highway 46, is already proposing cutting bus service – imposing a huge burden on a rural population dependent on that service. And as most of SLO County districts are expecting to run into similar problems, soon educational quality is going to be impacted countywide – and statewide, as SLO County schools’ problems are almost certainly being experienced around the state.
It’s hard not to read this as a deliberate attack on public schools by a right-wing governor whose privatization crusade seems to extend now to our schools. IOUs and schools may just be what Californians need to wake up and start getting angry about this budget mess.
SLO County residents are especially well positioned to act. Their state legislators – Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee and Senator Abel Maldonado – are among the most important Republicans for us to target in getting to a 2/3rds vote on a sensible budget deal. SLO County parents ought to pay Blakeslee and Maldonado a visit and ask them why they’re willing to jeopardize their children’s future to fulfill a promise to Grover Norquist.