At last night’s school board meeting, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith said public schools in California could face a per-student cut of $900 next year. The mind-boggling assertion was promptly tweeted by the district’s communications team and posted on Facebook:
The state is now telling California school districts to prepare for cuts of $900 PER STUDENT for the coming school year. For a school of 400 students, that’s $360,000. We need to get the word to Sacramento that cuts are unacceptable!
But where, exactly, did that figure come from?
At a School Services of California budget workshop in Sacramento last month, districts were advised to prepare to cut about $349 per student — in case the state’s temporary taxes aren’t extended in a June special election. That amounts to a 7 percent reduction for the average unified school district, which received $5,239 this year per pupil (in revenue limit dollars).
It’s also about 2.5 times less than this new figure.
I checked with Sheila Vickers, an analyst for School Services, and she said there are a number of doomsday scenarios floating around. That’s because Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to keep K-12 education spending flat not only hinges on a special election; it also relies on the Legislature to cut $12.5 billion from other programs in the state budget.
If the tax extension doesn’t pass AND if the Legislature decides to suspend Prop. 98, the minimum public school funding guarantee, the per-pupil cuts could be as high as $600 or $900, Vickers said — there’s no way to know, yet.
I asked OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint for the source of the shocking fiscal scenario, and he expressed some tweeter’s remorse:
The $349 per ADA number is a more reasonable estimate. The $900 per ADA figure is more the product of ruminations. I think the number was bandied about in recent conversations with Superintendents throughout the state, not raised as a serious possibility. I wish we hadn’t posted on this because we could be accused of fear-mongering. I don’t want to diminish our credibility by pushing sky-is-falling scenarios that make people belittle the damage a $349 per ADA cut would do or see it as some sort of victory if we settle for that reduction instead of the $900. That’s not to say the $900 number is a fabrication, just that it’s an outlier scenario.
So there you have it.