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California budget stalemate continues

To recap, Repubs proposed this on Monday:

…GOP leaders released a $22 billion package of their own that called for deep cuts to education and social service programs, as well as raiding other pots of money voters approved for early child development and mental illness. Democrats contend the Republican’s plan to cut more than $10 billion from schools amounted to shutting down every school in the state for two months or increasing class sizes by 40 percent. [Read the entire AP story here.]

The state is facing a budget deficit which is now estimated to be something over $40 billion. If nothing is done, it is looking like California will run out of cash to pay its bills some time in February. Dems have a counterproposal, which wriggles around the tyranny of the minority (a solid majority of California lawmakers are Democrats), caused by state laws which require two-thirds vote of both state legislative bodies to pass any new taxes. A bit about the Dem proposal from the Chronicle:

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on an $18 billion budget, put forth Wednesday by Democrats, that contains more than $9 billion in added revenue and requires only a simple majority vote of the Legislature to be approved. The move boxes in Republicans, who have just enough votes to block lawmakers from approving tax and budget bills that require a two-thirds majority in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not sign off on the Dem plan without some changes. More up-to-the-minute budget news at Calitics.

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State Republicans propose $22 billion in budget cuts

Despite having strong majorities in both the California Assembly and the Senate, California Democrats have little power to take action to make budget numbers line up. Any new taxes in the state require two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies, so staunchly anti-tax state Repubs can block any legislation they like. It’s pretty much the reverse of majority rules.

Republican cuts in the package presented today:

* Cutting monthly payments for supplemental security income recipients – to $830 from $870 for singles, and to $1,407 from $1,524 from couples

* Cutting nearly $10 billion from K-12 education over the next 18 months

* Cutting $6 billion from higher education funding

More state budget crisis details here and here and here and here.

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Alameda’s new school board’s first night in action

I watched only the smallest snippets of last night’s school board meeting from the comfort of my own home, but Michele Ellson of The Island was there and issued a full report. One highlight: newly-elected board member Trish Spencer nominated Ron Mooney for board president and then, after Mooney withdrew his name from consideration, Spencer nominated Mooney a second time, that time for board vice president. In response to which, second term board member Tracy Jensen withdrew her name for consideration for the position.

So, Alameda, your new school board president is Mike McMahon and your vice president is Ron Mooney. Retired principal Niel Tam, rounds out the group of five. You will likely be hearing more about them as the state budget continues to collapse and board members are faced with ever-more-difficult choices about how to run AUSD schools with less.

In a sign of the miserable economic times, the Alameda Education Association, which represents district teachers, has asked simply to extend their current contract for another year. Hopefully, turning their energy toward fighting state-level mid-year budget cuts to education funding.

Ellson’s whole report is here.

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New president for College of Alameda

College of Alameda President Cecilia Cervantes, who served as president of the school for six years, has taken a job as president of Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota. She is replaced by interim president George Herring, who served as COA president from 1995-2000, as well as in many other capacities for the Peralta Community College District. Herring, 74, has a long history with the district, and will serve until at least June 2010. More details here.

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Southern California teacher sells ad space on student tests

Crazy world, yes indeed. But one Southern California high school teacher has found a new way to pay for the copying services his school no longer pays for.

Math teacher Tom Farber began selling ads on tests and quizzes this fall when the district cut its per teacher copy budget from $500 to $316. Local businesses can insert ads for services, and some parents have paid for inspirational quotes.

The State of California cut more than $4 billion in education funding for this year school year and is poised to make even deeper mid-year cuts, to the tune of $2.5 billion.

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Alameda’s new Nea charter school approved

The Alameda Unified School District board voted last night 3-1, with board president Bill Schaff out of town and Janet Gibson dissenting, to approve the Nea Community Learning Center charter. The school’s facilitators have requested space to house the new school at Longfellow Education Center. The Island has details.

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Alameda school board to vote on Nea charter tonight

Ten days ago I attended a two-hour workshop sponsored by the Alameda Unified School District on the finer parts of the laws governing charter schools. I learned a good deal about charter law, but by far the biggest takeway from the panel discussion, which included Chuck Cadman of School Consulting, Inc., Carlene Naylor, the associate superintendent for the Alameda County Office of Education and Carolina Monroy of the California Teachers Association, is that the key to a successful charter, however it’s organized, is cooperation between charter and district. Monroy:

The reason we have some really good charters is because they’re working in a very complementary manner with the school district. There’s give and take. There’s discussions of the financial aspects. There’s constant ongoing communication…

When I’ve see they haven’t been really successful is this mindset that’s competitive, that we’re doing what the district can’t…that’s really very harmful all around.

As those of you who followed the first application for charter from Nea last year may have noted, there seems to be some negative history between the district and the Nea organizers, many of whom are affiliated with the Alameda Community Learning Center. So whatever the school board decides tonight on Nea’s second application, my hope is that district administrators and charter administrators will work hard to work together.

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New superintendent for Alameda schools

After a weekend of closed door interviews and another closed session today, Alameda’s school board has offered a contract to a new superintendent. Kirsten M. Vital currently works for the Oakland Unified School District where she has served as the community accountability chief since early 2006. She has also worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District as the Director of Instruction and Health and Human Services as well as co-principal of Santa Monica High School. Vital earned a bachelor’s from Northeastern and a master’s in eduction from Whittier College. Here’s slice of the press release from the district this afternoon:

The Alameda Unified School District and the members of the Alameda Unified School Board are pleased to announce that they have offered a contract to serve as Superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District to Ms. Kirsten Vital…

The school district conducted an extensive search and was pleased to find the best person for the job right here in the Bay Area…

“We couldn’t be happier with the choice of Ms. Vital,” said School Board president William Schaff. “In her previous and current positions she has been extensively involved in all aspects of running a school district,” said Schaff.

“As our district moves forward in these difficult economic times, I am confident that Ms. Vital will bring the experience, energy, and hands on approach the district needs,” he said. “She understands and will actively work to involve every member of our community in the future success of our schools. She truly understands our motto of excellence and equity for all children,” added Schaff.

You can read all the whole press release here.

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Rob Siltanen: “Defend Measure H”

Blogger/government teacher/Alameda parent Rob Siltanen has a post up today at School 94501/94502 detailing 1. the nasty state of California’s budget and 2. the importance of Measure H funds to the Alameda Unified District’s budget. Highlights:

…AUSD has very little control over its revenues. The overwhelming majority of AUSD revenues come from the state. So when the state economy is in a recession and the state budget is in free fall — as happened for 08-09 and as will happen again for the 09-10 budget cycle — AUSD’s revenues will drop precipitously. Even though “the district” and “the Board” have the responsibility of dealing with the resulting budget crisis, the situation is not of their making.

Furthermore, unlike a business that can balance its books by closing divisions and operations, AUSD may not cut costs by, for example, shutting down its highly unprofitable “special ed division” or suspending any of its other services for high needs (and therefore more expensive) students. AUSD must educate all students wishing to enroll in public schools in Alameda.

He goes on to detail the current state budget crisis and its impact locally:

The state budget is in such dire straights that the Governor has called a Special Session of the legislature to enact additional budget cuts for the CURRENT SCHOOL YEAR (”mid-year cuts”). Among the “highlights” of the Governor’s proposal to cut 2.5 billion more from the education budget for this school year – yes, those would be cuts for the year for which school districts were required to approve a budget last June — are (1) retroactively eliminating the COLA for 08-09 and (2) retroactively reducing revenue limit funding (i.e., general funding) by 1.79 billion. Even more ominously, this draconian Special Session plan only addresses 11 billion of the state’s projected shortfall. The Governor projects another 13 billion deficit for 09-10. That means that in January we will hear about even more cuts ON TOP OF THESE for the next, fast-approaching budget cycle. If the legislature is unable or unwilling to act in the Special Session (which I think is likely), the whole problem of a 24 billion deficit would be carried into 09-10.

The whole post is here. And, yes, it is long, but is a clearly-articulated, reality-based portrait of the current state budget crisis and its local impact.