The impasse is over, but budget cuts are ahead

As you’ve probably read by now, the governor’s expected to sign a budget agreement today that includes deep cuts to education and social services, along with a tax hike. 

This means the state has averted a doomsday cash flow scenario, at least for now, and that schools can actually start planning ahead — or planning their cutbacks, anyway. Here’s the story that ran in today’s Trib.

The deal does give local school districts greater budget flexibility, but it won’t affect the kindergarten through third grade class-size reduction program, which the state PTA and the California Teachers Association lobbied to protect.

Troy Flint, OUSD’s spokesman, said more details about the district’s budget should come out next week. Here’s what Jack O’Connell, our state superintendent, had to say:

“I’m pleased to see the Legislature finally put its differences aside and took action to end this protracted stalemate. While this budget is not ideal to any extent the uncertainty and instability for schools created by the lack of an agreement is over.

“This budget will reduce the current year Proposition 98 funding level by $7.4 billion, which includes about $2 billion in reductions to program and revenue limit funding, as well as $4.6 billion in deferrals and the redesignation of funds. While the state budget agreement resolves the massive state shortfall, we must recognize that part of the solution essentially transfers our state cash flow problem to local schools and districts, and these cuts will impact our students.

“The budget agreement also provides additional flexibility to transfer funding between about 40 programs which may assist school districts in continuing to provide the educational services their students need. I hope that district leaders will use this flexibility effectively to manage local educational needs while maintaining a focus on raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap.

“I am glad that the budget agreement did not include the very successful class size reduction program in the list of categoricals subject to flexibility. Keeping class sizes low benefits students in the critical early grades when they are learning to read and establish a foundation in understanding mathematics.

“Other vital programs, including child nutrition, special education, economic impact aid, our apprenticeship programs, and partnership academies also were not included in the new flexibility. These programs serve some of our neediest children and it is appropriate to preserve their effectiveness.

“During the next few days, my staff will continue its review of the language in the proposed ballot measure affecting the Proposition 98 maintenance factor, which is intended to provide the $9 billion in repayments owed to public education.

“The painful budget process at our state and local school district level calls out for reform of California’s dysfunctional budgeting process. It is time for a sincere and frank conversation about reform. Central to this conversation is the idea of throwing out the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget and simply using a majority vote. Nearly every state in the nation and Congress, as well as counties, and cities use majority votes to pass their budgets. California should follow suit.

“I understand that the minority party may feel that this would make them irrelevant to the process but, if anything, it would hold their majority party colleagues even more accountable.

“Most importantly, a simple majority vote would protect our schools and districts from the instability they are forced to endure anytime the Legislature cannot reach a budget compromise.

“It is time to bring about substantive changes to the way we do business in Sacramento – we owe the people of California this much.”

How do you expect these cuts to affect your school, or your classroom?

photo from dirvish’s photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John



    It’s a scenario that could get everyone conscripted into a Obama Homeland Security force to force each other in civil order.

    It’s dated survival manual, drafted 20 years ago, for American businesses on “surviving” hyperinflation. There’s not much written on the subject (in English), for American consumers, but given our continuing ‘economic melt down,’ in conjunction with (like em or not) historically HIGH projected government spending it’s a quite likely scenario. The government money presses are rolling, and their working against us boys and girls!

    I’ve heard folks chatting about our current economic circumstance as a “Perfect Economic Storm.” While conditions exist for the making of a ‘Perfect Economic Storm,’ we don’t have it YET because (among other things) we don’t have HYPERINFLATION. We WILL soon have serious inflation. The only question is HOW SEVERE?

    A super hyper inflation scenario will make YOU more concerned about filling your child’s stomach than filling his brain. Too bad I wetn and took that Economics 101 class back in college. Had I been satisfied with the Political Science class I’d now be as relaxed and happy as a lobotomized congressman.