By Len Feldman
CTA Board member Mike Bustos cautions members of the legislative budget conference committee during the panel's June 1 hearing that further education cuts would devastate schools and harm students.
CTA and its Education Coalition partners are mobilizing their members and school supporters throughout the state to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest round of devastating cuts that threaten to slash another $5.4 billion from public education.
These cuts were announced after voters rejected five budget-related ballot measures on May 19 and after updated economic forecasts showed state revenues falling even lower than earlier projections.
Many lawmakers have conceded that voters told them clearly during the May 19 special election that they want the governor and Legislature to solve fiscal problems without bringing the issues to the electorate. The governor is asserting that the initiatives' failure means voters will not support revenue increases or borrowing. He has therefore sought to bridge a looming $23 billion revenue shortfall by cuts and cuts alone.
"These additional cuts are unconscionable," says CTA President David A. Sanchez. "We will do everything in our power to persuade lawmakers to reject the governor's proposals to further gut public schools. The cuts will force more layoffs, create larger class sizes, and implement other instructional reductions that would do irreparable damage to our more than 9 million students. California can't afford this kind of devastation to our public schools and colleges."
The governor's revised budget plan, the May Revision, proposes changes to state spending in both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years. It would hit public schools with another $1.6 billion in cuts this year, with an additional $3.7 billion in cuts that would take effect during the following school year.
The cuts for 2008-09 would reduce school spending to the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee by paring $1.36 billion from basic school funding (revenue limits) and by slashing $200 million in community college funding. Among the casualties of the cuts is the 2008-09 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which was pegged at 4.25 percent.
In total, the new cuts for 2008-09 account for a reduction in per-student funding of at least $240. California is already 47th nationally in this important measure of support for public education, and these cuts will move the state further down the list.
For 2009-10, the additional $3.7 billion in cuts will drive revenue limit funding downward by another $1.4 billion, reduce community college funding by another $580 million, and defer another $1.6 billion in school funding. These cuts would reduce per-student funding by another $715.
CTA fiscal experts expect some of the state cuts to be offset by federal stimulus funds dedicated to public education by the Obama administration.
Public schools have already been hit hard by the largest reduction in public education funding in the state's history, more than $11.6 billion. Those cuts resulted in more than 27,000 educators receiving layoff notices.
Additional teachers and education support professionals could receive pink slips until Aug. 15 under provisions of state law that allow a second layoff window to open when school funding drops precipitously.
Districts have responded by eliminating key education programs, cramming more students into each classroom, and reducing student access to nurses and counselors.
CTA and members throughout the state are fighting hard to block these cuts. In the state Capitol, CTA representatives are reminding lawmakers about the impact of the already implemented cuts and the devastation the new cuts will have on the students of California.
Association representatives are pushing for new revenues and technical changes to laws that would protect vital instructional programs. For instance, CTA representatives have been exploring the impact of a relaxation of state laws that set the minimum amount of funds districts must keep in reserve. CTA officials point out that districts should be allowed to spend down their rainy day reserves rather than doing irreversible damage to educational programs by cutting positions and increasing class sizes.