By Len Feldman
State Controller John Chiang (second from right) joins CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes, President David A. Sanchez, and Vice President Dean Vogel at a Summer Institute reception in August.
One hundred days late, the state Legislature approved a new $87.5 billion state budget that will wreak further financial devastation on California’s already hard-hit public schools.
The new budget, carried in a number of separate spending bills, will suspend Proposition 98 — state voters’ minimum funding guarantee to schools — and slash school appropriations by another $4.3 billion. This newest round of school cuts comes on top of $17 billion in funding reductions that have already hammered public schools, students, teachers and education support professionals. Those cuts have forced dramatic increases in class sizes, shorter instructional years, reductions or eliminations of art, music and other programs, and thousands of layoffs of instructional personnel. More than 30,000 layoffs of educators alone have been reported over the past two years.
“These cuts are part of a legacy of underfunding of public schools,” CTA President David A. Sanchez told lawmakers. “This budget deal continues the downward spiral while providing new corporate tax breaks and pension takeaways for hardworking families.”
CTA and its Education Coalition partners battled hard to ensure that the final budget would provide funding increases for school. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers slashed more than $7.5 billion from state funding to all programs to fill a $19.1 billion budget revenue shortfall. More than half of those cuts will hit public education.
While the budget will provide K-12 schools with about $300 more per pupil than the governor’s May budget proposal, the final adopted plan includes a number of adjustments and suspensions designed to give schools less than ordinarily required under Proposition 98, the state’s minimum funding guarantee to public education.
“This is a bad budget for students, teachers and school support professionals, and for California,” emphasizes Sanchez. “Our joint efforts protected schools from even harsher cuts, but our students are going to suffer because of the failure of the governor and lawmakers to do the right thing — raise the revenues the state needs to fund schools properly.”
This year’s efforts to finalize a budget that provided more funding for public education were hampered by both the worst state economy in recent memory and current laws that require the Legislature to approve a state budget by a two-thirds supermajority. CTA is backing initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot aimed at addressing both of these issues.
CTA-sponsored Proposition 24, the Tax Fairness Act, will close recently opened loopholes that allow the state’s wealthiest corporations to escape paying their fair share. This measure is expected to raise more than $1.3 billion for the state’s general fund, helping to boost funding for education, public safety and other critical services.
A second measure, Proposition 25, addresses the two-thirds supermajority hurdle. It would speed up the budget process and allow a simple majority of legislators to approve the state’s annual spending plan. Had that measure been in effect this year, it is highly likely that schools, social services, public safety and other programs would have fared better.