California schools are taking a big cut this year and next, no doubt about it. But by how much? Depends on who you ask.
The California Department of Education says it’s $11.6 billion, total, between this year and next, a figure that’s being used widely in the education world, especially on Pink Friday.
But according to Jennifer Kuhn, a K-12 education analyst for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, California schools are taking a $5.2 billion hit ($2.4 billion in program cuts this academic year, and $2.8 billion in 2009-10).
That’s a pretty big difference.
After I left a message with Kuhn to verify the $11.6 billion figure, she and a colleague — who had also heard that number in news reports — sat down and tried to figure out ways that someone might “get to” that amount.
One way, she said, is to count the 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment that schools won’t receive in 2008-09 and 2009-10 — about $6 billion, total. That’s money that they would have received in “a healthy year,” she said.
It turns out that the CDE is including some of that in its grand total. It’s also calling a $3.2 billion delayed payment — an accounting maneuver used to balance the state’s books by giving schools some of their 2008-09 money in July, after the new fiscal year has started — a cut.
That deferred payment does hurt schools, Kuhn said, but it’s not really accurate to call it a cut, since schools will get the money.
Either way, it’s painful, whether you call it $5.2 billion or $11.6 billion. I just thought I’d spell it out for you so that you could choose, for yourself, which one to use.