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CA budget proposal: More funding for schools

Gov. Jerry BrownBecause of rising tax revenues, California’s public schools (k-12) would get $3 billion more than expected in 2011-12 under Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision.

At a news conference this morning, Brown said the amount of money guaranteed to public schools under Proposition 98 — a Constitutional amendment that voters approved in 1988 — increased by $3 billion since January. He said his plan would honor that guarantee (rather than ask the Legislature to suspend it), and that it called for the state to start repaying $8.2 billion in debt to schools.

Another change from Brown’s January proposal relates to delayed payments to school districts — money owed one year, but not paid until the following year. As you might imagine, deferrals cause major cash flow problems for schools. Brown said his plan would eliminate a $2.1 billion deferral he had proposed in January.

One factor behind the budget revisions is an increase of $6.6 billion in tax receipts that is projected through June 2012. But Brown’s plan also hinges on an extension of sales and vehicles taxes (though not income taxes, at least until 2012), a measure that Republican lawmakers have been blocking from the ballot. He promised there would be “no taxes without the vote of the people,” and said a fall ballot measure would probably be the most realistic.

Brown didn’t offer a Plan B, however. “I’m not going to give the Republicans a road map to ruin…” he said.

Bill Huyett, superintendent of Berkeley schools, said he didn’t expect such a favorable proposal. Like many school officials, he had been preparing for much worse.

“That’s good news, if he’s fully funding Prop. 98,” he said. “That’s the best we could hope for, in my opinion.”

But will districts be able to bank on this proposal, or could they be left high and dry if Brown’s tax extension plan fails? I checked with School Services of California, a firm that advises school districts on such questions, and they’re still figuring out what to recommend. I’ll let you know when I hear more.

You can read the Mercury News story here.

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://www.mikemcmahon.info/group Mike McMahon

    While School Services of California is the best place to check, some County Offices of Education have been issuing their own guidelines for school districts to use for budgeting purposes and/or Superintendents are using their own guessitimates.

    Ideally it would make more sense to have someone like the Department of Finance be responsible for issuing statewide guidelines for school districts.

  • Katy Murphy

    I should have mentioned that I also checked with Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan. She said her agency is still figuring out its instructions to school districts. You might get word on that before I do, though!