Monday, January 30, 2012


Record turn-out for the state senator's annual education forum where he spoke about upcoming proposals and a number of funding-related issues.

By Avni Nijhawan | Cupertino Patch |

30 January 2012 | 2:46 pm  :: The two overflow rooms for state Sen. Joe Simitian's weekend education forum said it all.

Saturday's record turnout at the Palo Alto school district office for the state legislator's bi-annual update on education in California mirrored the worry over education funding that nearly everyone—from teachers to parents to boards of education—are expressing this year.

"Unfortunately, the size of the crowd each year is often an indicator of the level of concern that people have about where we are with education issues and education funding," Simitian (D-Cupertino) said.

School district board members, teachers, and parents from Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and a Santa Cruz County comprised most of those at the meeting, asking the senator questions ranging from community college funding to funding for mental health services in schools.

"This year will be as uncertain as any year we have seen over the last decade," he said. "If there's a word to describe what we're about to walk into, it's 'uncertainty,' I think."

Simitian spent much of his time explaining Gov. Jerry Brown's upcoming proposals, one of which includes a tax to fund education.

If the tax proposal passes, education funding will likely receive a 10 to 11 percent increase—$5 billion—which will be mostly used to pay back yearly "deferrals."

"One of the ways we have managed to cobble together a budget every year at the state level is by saying, 'Well, we're not going to cut the program, but we're going to defer the payment to next year," he said. About 20 percent of education funding is deferred each year.

The governor, he said, aims to "pay down the wall of debt" with his tax proposal, a combined half-cent sales tax and a tax increase on upper income earners.

If the law passes in November, those making $250,000 or more will pay an extra one percent on their income, $300,000 and up will pay 1.5 percent more, and those making $500,000 or more will pay two percent extra. The sales tax would be in place for four years and the income tax would last five years.

"I think he's picked the right number of years," Simitian said. "That being said, I do think it should be temporary."

Proposition 98, the 1988 bill that theoretically guarantees a minimum level of education funding, will do little to help this budget this year if the tax proposal fails, Simitian said.

Another funding proposal Brown wants to phase in over the next five years is called a "weighted student formula," which would simplify the maze-like world of state school funding—Simitan likened it to the Winchester Mystery House—and distribute money on a per-student basis.

"We're going to say, 'For every kid, here's what you get,'" Simitian said. Disadvantaged students, including low-income and English language learners, will receive an additional increment.

Revenue limit and basic aid schools would would be affected by the change in different ways. All districts receive a minimum amount of state funding, some of which is derived from property taxes; revenue limit districts are those which need extra funding from the state because property taxes alone did not meet the minimum requirement. In contrast, basic aid districts—roughly 10 percent of those in the state, or 100 districts—exceed funding through property taxes alone. 

Basic aid schools don't receive money on a per-student basis, but for a variety of programs, Simitian said. 

"If you eliminate those programs and fold all of the funding into a basic, per-pupil allocation with a supplement for disadvantaged students, then the funding you received as basic aid districts is likely to disappear, with the exception of the categoricals that remain in place," he said.

For revenue limit districts, those with more disadvantaged students benefit, Simitian said.


THIS FROM SENATOR SIMITIAN’S WEBSITE: Save Transitional Kindergarten from Budget Cuts!  |  (Download this fact sheet as a PDF.)

Transitional Kindergarten

Senate Bill 1381 (Simitian, Chapter 705, Statutes of 2010) changed the kindergarten entry-age in California from five years old by December 2nd to five years old by September 1st.  The new age requirement will be phased-in over three years beginning in the 2012-13 school year.  Those “young fives” (children turning five from September 2 – December 2) whose kindergarten is delayed by the new cut-off date, will be served in a transitional kindergarten program, at no additional cost to the state, using a curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.

The Governor’s 2012-13 Proposed Budget calls for the elimination of funding for transitional kindergarten in order to save $223 million for the state.  Below are some of the potential negative impacts of changing the kindergarten cut-off date without providing transitional kindergarten:

  1. Approximately 125,000 children (born between Sep. 2nd – Dec. 2nd) would be displaced from the K-12 school system;
    • 60 percent of these students attend Title 1 schools and 40 percent are English Learners
    • this would be the largest displacement of children from public schools in our nation’s history
  2. Permanent reduction to Proposition 98 guarantee

    • since ADA is a multiplier in the Prop 98 formula, displacing 125,000 children from kindergarten, and subsequent grade levels for the following 12 years, would result in a lower guarantee in the future when the leading small cohort(s) have graduated and statewide ADA returns to what it otherwise would have been
  3. Loss of funding for special education (approx. $100 million)

    • districts are responsible for providing special education services to children once they turn 3 years old, however, these children don’t generate funding for schools until they enroll in kindergarten
    • districts would lose $75.6 million in AB 602 special education funding (assume $600 per student as the statewide average)
    • districts would also lose $30.4 million in revenue limit funding that supports affected special education students born in the fall (assume $5,000 per student as the deficited statewide average revenue limit for a unified school district)
  4. Budget cuts to local school districts (displacing the fall cohort would save money for the State, but not necessarily for districts);

    • losing ¼ of the funding for the kindergarten cohort doesn’t translate directly into savings for school districts; depending on the size of the district and distribution of the local population, “savings” or at least cost avoidance would vary significantly
    • smaller school districts would lose ADA funding, but may not be able to eliminate classes or lay-off teachers
    • losing enrollment on the margins results in 100 percent loss of the associated ADA funding, but fixed costs remain
  5. More teacher lay-offs in a bad economy and in the midst of billions in cuts to K-12 education;

    • 4,500 teacher jobs would be eliminated (assuming all districts could eliminate classes with 25-30 students per class), these teacher lay-offs would be repeated annually at each subsequent grade level for 13 years
  6. Negative financial impact on families that would be required to pay for an additional year of childcare/preschool or loss of income from a care-giver out of the work force for an additional year;

    • this would be an especially hard impact on working families that cannot afford preschool (State preschool program isn’t an option since there are currently 83,000 children on the wait-list)
    • the lack of access to preschool is further compounded by the fact that the Governor’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of 71,000 child care slots
    • $6,000 (part-day) to $15,000 (full-day) average cost of a year of preschool (depending on location and the quality of the program)

How to Help

You can read more about transitional kindergarten and find ways to get involved on the website of Preschool California

Senator Simitian will serve the 11th district which includes 13 cities—Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Campbell, Santa Cruz and Capitola—until November, when his 12-year term ends. There are 931,349 people in the district. Simitian announced plans to run for the District 5 seat as Santa Clara County Supervisor.

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