By Len Feldman and Mike Myslinski
In a Jan. 26 protest at the San Francisco Unified school board meeting, members of United Educators of San Francisco rallied to show their concern for fairness in the budget process.
With educators and students across the state still reeling from the $17 billion in cuts made to public education over the last two years, the governor released a 2010-11 budget proposal that includes further cuts of $2.5 billion. California schools will soon feel the gravity of that move as the state’s March 15 deadline for handing out preliminary pink slips to educators approaches.
Deep cuts abound
Nearly 450 educators will receive preliminary pink slips in the Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County. The district wanted five furlough days for educators to defray what they thought was an $18 million deficit — but that soared to $31 million because of cuts in the governor’s spending plan.
“Now the district says the five furlough days won’t even cut it,” says Bill Fisher, president of the Corona-Norco Teachers Association. “We took two furlough days last year. This district has cut $52 million over the last three years.”
In the 62,000-student Elk Grove Unified in Sacramento County, students and educators will feel the hurt as 500 pink slips are projected to be given out to educators, says Tom Gardner, president of Elk Grove Education Association. The district reports that it faces having to cut $55 million from its budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1.
“Everybody is very nervous right now about what’s going to happen,” says Gardner. “We are being asked to take two furlough days this school year and the district wants us to accept five more in the next year.”
“Enough is enough,” declares CTA President David A. Sanchez. “Schools have already suffered far more than our fair share, over $17 billion in total. We are pressing lawmakers to block the governor’s school funding manipulations and his proposal to cut another $2.5 billion from public education. And we are urging our members to take part in our March 4 statewide activities to call attention to the battle to stop the irreparable harm these proposed cuts would do to our students and our schools.”
In San Francisco Unified, educators are demanding transparency from the district as they cope with the shock of the superintendent’s projection of a need for $113 million in cuts over the next two years. In a Jan. 26 protest at the school board meeting, members of United Educators of San Francisco marched in the rain and chanted their demands for fairness in the budget process. Proposed cuts include hiking class sizes, freezing pay increases, reducing funding for art and music, and gutting funding for struggling schools.
“All of this chaos started with the cuts made in Sacramento,” says Dennis Kelly, president of UESF. “Teachers here are facing the same pain as educators across the state. We are maintaining a positive relationship with the district to help resolve this crisis and keep cuts as far away from students as possible. We can trust, but we need to verify.”
Rejecting the proposal
Within days of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s release of his budget proposal, CTA and its Education Coalition partners were busy in the state Capitol urging lawmakers to reject the governor’s spending plan — a plan that would renege on his agreement with educators earlier in the year and undermine principles of fairness spelled out in educators’ contracts.
CTA and the Education Coalition, representing more than 1 million Californians, are battling revenue limit funding cuts of $1.5 billion (about $250 per student), in addition to cuts of $550 million from class size reduction, another $202 million for nearly all K-12 education programs, $200 million in child development programs, and $45 million to county offices of education. The coalition is also denouncing the governor’s decision to back away from his agreement and unilaterally redefine the school funding floor for the current year. That manipulation paves the way for the governor to cut a total of about $2.5 billion in additional school funding in 2010 and 2010-11 and breaks the governor’s promise to repay schools more than $11 billion.
The governor’s redefinition is part of his plan to reduce state funding for schools in the current year and in future years. By reducing current year funding levels, his plan would also lower the Proposition 98 guarantee in future years. The governor’s plan would cut state school funding so drastically that it would actually drive education spending $600 million below the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) level that the state is required to meet in order to qualify for federal stimulus funding.
The governor’s budget proposal would:
- Manipulate Proposition 98 to reduce 2009-11 school funding by more than $2.5 billion. Those reductions would come on top of the previous cuts that exceed $17 billion.
- Slash school funding by another $400 per student.
- Renege on the governor’s agreement with educators and the Legislature by redefining the school funding amount in the 2008-09 budget. That redefinition would undermine the state’s minimum funding guarantee and pave the way for the governor’s cutting $2.5 billion — and not repaying the more than $11 billion owed to schools.
- Reduce school funding to $600 million below the minimum “maintenance of effort” (MOE) level required to qualify for federal stimulus money the state has received.
- Make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers by virtually eliminating teacher seniority protections, reducing lead time required for certificated layoffs, and reducing or eliminating substitute teachers.
- Allow the contracting out of school services now performed by education support professionals, and reduce or eliminate central office classified and certificated positions.
Bad policy positions tied to budget
The governor’s budget proposal would make policy changes to the Education Code that resurrect the anti-union proposals that voters rejected in 2005 or legislators have defeated. These include a plan that would virtually eliminate teacher seniority, shorten layoff notice timelines, and limit the use of substitute teachers. Under the guise of reducing “administrative costs,” the governor’s plan would also decimate the numbers of support personnel working in public schools. “California is in danger of failing an entire generation of children,” the Education Coalition letter reads. “Every legislator claiming education is a priority must reject the governor’s proposed budget manipulations and proposed new cuts in funding to K-12 education.”
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