Sunday, June 28, 2009


By Gary Toebben | The Business Perspective| from

The L.A. Area Chamber, together with nearly 100 of our members, recently traveled to Sacramento on our annual advocacy trip with an agenda to recover, reform and rebuild California. Budget issues and the state’s fiscal crisis are top of mind for all lawmakers, but reform is about much more than balancing the budget. It’s about encouraging business growth and investing in today’s students to ensure a competitive workforce for tomorrow’s economy.

California schools are facing drastic budget cuts that will impact every district, every school and every classroom. Having already cut more than $5.15 billion (or $860 per student) in K-12 education expenditures, our school districts still face an additional $6 billion (or $1,000 per student) in cuts for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Like the state Legislature that has been hindered in balancing the budget due in part to past voter-approved initiatives, our school districts are limited by the California Education Code in the actions they can take to effectively manage resources from the state. Simply put, their hands are often tied at a time when budget resources are limited and must be redirected to best serve the needs of students.

Today, the California Education Code includes mandates on class size, textbooks, testing and a plethora of other district functions. State law also places limitations on how school districts manage and terminate both certified (teachers) and classified (other) employees. With so many requirements and so little flexibility, California’s school districts will have limited options for dealing with the next round of school cuts unless Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature act.

The Chamber advocated for charter school-like flexibility in our school districts. We urged lawmakers to consider 10 recommendations that would enable school districts to manage budget cuts while minimizing the impact on students. Chief among these recommendations is providing local control to districts to determine how budget cuts should be made.

In today’s economy, school reform is about high standards and accountability. It’s about fixing what’s broken and keeping what works. It’s about investing the dollars we have directly in local school sites and in teachers and students. Let’s give our school districts the flexibility they need to weather this economic storm without sacrificing tomorrow’s workforce.

And that’s The Business Perspective.

The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion blog piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Samuel Garrison, Vice President of Public Policy.

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