Saturday, January 27, 2007

Schools are looking for financial aid from state

As enrollment declines, officials in local districts are making plans to mount lobbying efforts with lawmakers.

By Paul Clinton STAFF WRITER Daily Breeze

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - Local school districts, which greeted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget this month with more jeers than cheers, vow to lobby state lawmakers for more funds for the upcoming school year.

Pending a May revision and legislative deal-making in the summer, districts would see a smaller funding increase than last year -- to about 4 percent from 6 percent -- and fewer one-time grants.

While the revenue loss from fewer students is still at least a year away for Los Angeles Unified, Hawthorne and other school districts facing declining enrollment, districts are facing other falling revenue from other sources.

"As the budget process continues in the next few months, I urge Gov. Schwarzenegger, state and federal leaders to prioritize education funding and increase flexibility to school districts," LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III said.

Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest district, will see about $200 million less, down to $5.6 billion for the 2006-07 year, said Roger Rasmussen, LAUSD's budget director. Rasmussen is scheduled to give a budget presentation to the Board of Education today.
"I would characterize it as a disappointing budget for K-12 education," Rasmussen said. "It's very much a status quo approach."

Under the current proposal, districts would see a more than 4 percent cost-of-living bump across the board -- except for the less than 3 percent rise in federal monies for special education. Districts received an almost 6 percent increase for the 2006-07 year.

In Torrance, a district with 24,000 students, educators expect $1.4 million less in "equalization" monies given to districts lower on the wealth ladder.

"I understand there's not as much money as there was before," said Don Stabler, Torrance Unified's deputy superintendent of administrative services. "From Torrance's point of view, equalization is important."

Several one-time grants also have vanished from the 2007-08 state budget. Schwarzenegger elected not to renew a $500 million outlay for musical instruments, multimedia software, sports equipment and cameras. Districts will continue to receive ongoing arts and physical education funds for instructors. Torrance Unified received a $1.8 million one-time outlay and $350,000 in ongoing money used to hire five elementary music teachers.

The district also counts on about $600,000 in annual mandated costs that aren't likely to be reimbursed, Stabler said.

The state usually reimburses districts for 38 mandated costs such as administering the California High School Exit Exam, collective bargaining and truancy notification.

Los Angeles Unified, Hawthorne elementary and other districts expecting less money due to declining enrollment are keeping a closer eye on funding. The state gives districts a one-year grace period before they must absorb the financial hit.

The state gives districts $5,500 to $7,500 to educate each student each year.
About 4,000 fewer students attended Los Angeles Unified schools this year a
nd about 400 fewer students attended Hawthorne's elementary and middle schools from the 9,775 a year ago.

"We are hurting because we do have a decline in enrollment," said Cristina Chiappe, a board member. "We have less kids and that means a lot less money, but we are still mandated to educate the children."

In the state budget as it now stands, districts have less freedom to spend money they're given, said LAUSD Board Member David Tokofsky.

Schwarzenegger has proposed funding special education transportation using revenue from the state's gasoline tax and asking districts to dip into K-12 instructional funds to pay for before- and after-school child care.

"If we keep this pattern up of chiseling the K-12 day, we'll be a state that will have everything outside of the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. day," Tokofsky said. "We're asking the school districts to pick up all these other responsibilities with the money they're supposed to use for 8 to 3, Monday to Friday."

1 comment:

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