By Len Feldman
CTA President David Sanchez, joined by Alicia Gaddis, City Board Chair for Sacramento ACORN, at a press conference.
While CTA and its allies defeated efforts to gut California’s Proposition 98 — schools’ minimum funding guarantee — the newly approved 17-month state budget reduces K-14 public education funding by a devastating $11.6 billion. Cuts of that magnitude, the largest in the state’s history, will force the layoffs of thousands of educators, eliminate vital student programs, and turn thousands of qualified students away from higher education institutions.
“These cuts will impact an entire generation of children and escalate California’s race to the bottom in education funding,” warns CTA President David A. Sanchez. “These cuts send the wrong message to our students, their parents, our communities and our country. An investment in our children’s future now will make sure they prosper in the future.”
Sanchez notes that the final budget places “an initiative on the special election ballot to repay the $9.3 billion owed to education over several years. The restoration of this money will be critical to the future of our public schools.” The Budget Stabilization Fund (BSF) initiative on the May 19 special election ballot will create a mechanism to facilitate the repayment of the Proposition 98 “maintenance factor.” Without the BSF, though, the state will not be able to make the repayment. (See details of ballot measures.)
“The plan also protects the state’s successful Class Size Reduction (CSR) program from complete elimination,” Sanchez emphasizes, “allowing local school districts to continue smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.” The plan maintains ratios at 20.4 to 1 for K-3 class sizes, and adjusts penalties for school districts if they choose to exceed CSR program caps.
Sanchez notes the disappointing and frustrating nature of the prolonged budget battle and the clear recognition that the process is in dire need of reform, but commends Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) for “having the courage to support revenue increases.”
The enacted budget would raise about $11.1 billion in new revenues.
A new 1 percent sales tax and an increase in the Vehicle License Fee (VLF) from 0.65 to 1.15 percent will raise the largest share of the new state revenues. These increases are paired with a surcharge of up to 0.25 percent on the state personal income tax and a 0.15 percent tax to pay for law enforcement services, which will free up about $600 million in state funds for other purposes. The proposal also raises new revenues by reducing the taxpayers’ tax credit for dependent-related expenditures.
Despite some victories, schools will still be hit hard by cuts in the budget agreement that the governor and legislative leaders crafted to close the $42 billion revenue gap.
Some key elements of the enacted budget package
- Raises new revenues of about $11.1 billion.
- Slashes K-14 education funding by a record $11.6 billion.
- Sets special election for May 19 asking voters to approve a mechanism to repay schools $9.3 billion.
- Maintains current ratios at 20.4 to 1 for K-3 class sizes. Adjusts penalties for school districts if they choose to exceed Class Size Reduction (CSR) program class size caps.
- Includes three new tiers for categorical programs. The budget does not reduce funding for Tier 1 categorical programs and allows districts no flexibility to move the funds to other programs. Tier 1 programs include Special Education, Child Development, K-3 CSR, and Economic Impact Aid (EIA).
- Reduces funding for Tier 2 categorical programs by 15.4 percent in 2008-09 and an additional 4.7 percent reduction in 2009-10, but funds from these programs can’t be moved to support other programs.
- Reduces funding for Tier 3 categorical programs by the same amount as the reductions affecting Tier 2 programs, but funds from Tier 3 programs can be moved to other programs after the district holds local public hearings.
- Avoids a fee increase for community college students for 2009-10.
- Protects CalGrants for eligible students at the state’s community colleges, California State University, and the University of California.
- Reduces funding for CSU and UC by 10 percent across the board and requires reduced costs for retirement contributions.