Tag Archives: Ventura Unified

California flunks Budget 101

WHAT’S THE BEST REASON to not cut our state education funding? In the future we’ll need sharp minds to get us out of these budget messes.

I’ve been hunkered down for the past few days looking over documents and trying to make some sense of the budget package the governor just signed and how it will affect the bottom line of our schools. It’s a precarious hodgepodge of $8.4 billion in cuts offset by reforms and accounting tricks. And all of this hinges on a package of ballot measures up in May, some designed to reshuffle prior ballot measures.

This labyrinthine budget reduces Prop. 98 guaranteed school funding from now through 2010 and then adds in another ballot measure to help to help restore the lost funds in 2011. Yet another tinkers with Prop. 98 formulas because the state now needs to borrow from future lottery earnings that would’ve gone to our schools.

Several of the seven ballot measures coming up on May 19 are so complicated that one could safely predict most voters probably won’t do anything but vote no in protest, if they bother to cast a ballot at all.

AND THERE’S MORE: Categorical funding for many important programs is being slashed 20 percent between now and 2010. Included in this are programs for gifted students, college preparation, middle and high school counseling, deferred maintenance, technology, English language acquisition, summer school, ROP programs, and, of course, arts and music. In return, school districts are being given the “flexibility” to move these pots of funding around, but it’s sort of like figuring out which child doesn’t get dinner that night.

Upcoming federal money, which would help reduce state taxes, would have no effect on K-12 classroom funding this budget year, according to the California Department of Education. In the longer term, “these resources will have a minimal impact on reducing the size and magnitude of the state reductions in education funding,” according to the California Association of School Business Officials.

AS YOU CAN SURMISE, budgeting for the next school year is like playing pin the tail on the weasel. It’s a moving target which the dedicated folks who can actually figure this stuff out HAVE to wrestle with because the deadline for letting teachers know whether or not they will have jobs next year is March 13. Yet, they won’t have any answers until June. Maybe.

Here in the City of Ventura, school officials are looking at a mighty big gap. “… It will not look like business as usual here,” said Superintendent Trudy Arriaga. “We should not be celebrating a state budget that is cutting $10 million out of a little budget like the Ventura Unified School District has.

“We should be outraged.”

Most people just pay attention to all this by how it affects them personally. If you have a child in the public schools in California, expect bigger class sizes, no new textbooks, fewer supplies and technology, less remedial help, reduced maintenance and less emphasis on programs such as arts, music and physical education. Some familiar faces in teaching, staff and administration will be gone.

“About the only thing schools won’t have less of is testing,” said Ventura Unified Educators Association President Steve Blum.  “The more-and-more testing crowd made sure state testing will be untouched.

“All this together is not good. This generation’s shortsighted approach to preparing the next generation for the future is sad.”

Marie Lakin is a community activist and and writes the Making Waves blog for the Ventura County Star