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State education leader warns tax extension failure could have dire consequences

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 7:59 pm in Education.

As time is running out to get Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions on a June ballot, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is trying to make the public aware of the dire situations that could face schools if the taxes fail.

“Californians cherish their schools,” Torlakson said in a news release Friday. “Before we miss the chance to help our state’s 6.2 million schoolchildren weather this financial emergency, people have a right to know the consequences.”

He sent a letter to county school superintendents warning that without an extension, the state could be forced to cut school spending by up to $4.5 billion or 10 percent of the K-12 budget. He asked education leaders to figure out what that would mean to their schools.

Two months ago, Torlakson declared a state of financial emergency in California’s schools, saying they had suffered $18 billion in cuts over the past three years, equal to about one-third of the state’s K-12 spending annually.

Here’s the letter he sent to county superintendents:


I am writing today to ask for your help with compiling information about the number of pink slips and layoff notices being issued, and the program cuts being proposed, by the Local Education Agencies in your jurisdiction.

As you know, should the state budget resolution require an all-cuts solution, our schools could face an additional $4.5 billion in cuts — a dire situation for our schools already facing a state of fiscal emergency. Are most of your districts producing layoff and program reduction plans based on the ‘all-cuts’ budget assumption? I think it is vital for the public to know the full impacts of the worst-case budget scenario.

Given the urgency we face, I ask you to share the pink slip, layoff notice, and program cut information with me as soon as it becomes available to you. I am interested in learning specific information about the pinks slips issued to certificated staff and layoff notices given to non-certificated staff. The program and funding details of the cuts being proposed will be more difficult to share, but I would appreciate any level of detail you may be able to provide …

In addition, I am interested in learning more about how the school districts in your jurisdiction are responding to the funding deferrals that have already occurred, and what the potential impact may be from those included in the budget package proposal.

I am also deeply concerned about how the pattern of deferrals has, in effect, led to our schools being used as a bank to cover the state’s ongoing fiscal problems.

I will be developing an estimate of the total cost of this borrowing to our school districts across the state. I want to share this information with the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and the general public.

Please ask the districts in your county to provide the latest information they can about how they are handling this situation — including interest costs, lost interest from use of reserve funds, time, cash-flow management, programs, etc. …

Thank you in advance for your help in compiling this information.”

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