Sunday, January 09, 2011


"…after years of cutbacks, I am determined to enhance our public schools so that our citizens of the future have the skills, the zest and the character to keep California up among the best.”

Governor Brown’s Third Inaugural Address

By Kevin Yamamura | sACRAMENT0 BEE |

Tuesday, Jan. 04, 2011 - Gov. Jerry Brown will spare K-12 schools from further drastic cuts in his budget – so long as voters extend higher income taxes in a special election, according to sources familiar with his proposal.

The tradeoff wouldn't cure education ills, and many districts would still face another year of fewer school days and larger class sizes. But it could avert even deeper cuts after years of school rollbacks and help Brown galvanize powerful education support for tax hikes in a June special election.

"If something like that happens, I'm going to be looking for the feet to be kissed," said Kevin Gordon, a veteran education lobbyist, of the Brown education proposal. "The big question is, what will the voters do, and if voters don't come through, will we go through incredible anxiety all over again?"

Brown does not plan to suspend Proposition 98, the state's minimum guarantee for K-12 and community college funding, though he may seek to do so if the tax hike extensions don't pass.

Without any increase in state revenue, K-12 schools and community colleges stand to lose more than $2 billion in funding in 2011-12 – roughly 4 percent – because tax rates are scheduled to decline this year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Several school officials asked Brown at his Los Angeles forum on Dec. 10 to raise taxes to avoid further cuts to education.

Absent those taxes, the analyst's office projects 2011-12 to be the worst year for schools in the current slump. Thereafter, schools stand to receive more money as the economy recovers.

Brown plans to ask voters to extend higher tax rates on sales, vehicles and income. His proposal would send additional sales and vehicle tax money to counties as part of his plan to shift more responsibilities to local governments.

But Brown would keep the extra income tax revenue for the state, with a substantial portion going to education to offset that $2 billion cut. In his inaugural speech Monday, Brown singled out public schools as an area he wants to bolster in his return as governor.

"Our budget problem is dire but after years of cutbacks, I am determined to enhance our public schools so that our citizens of the future have the skills, the zest and the character to keep California up among the best," he said.

Still, the Democratic governor plans to cut funding for the University of California and California State University systems, both of which Schwarzenegger spared during his last year in office.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, questioned the focus on funding levels.

"California needs to get more education bang for the buck, it doesn't need more dollars into education," he said.

He criticized compensation levels in California, noting that the state has among the highest paid teachers in the nation. "We'd like to get more pay for good teachers and have bad teachers discharged by school districts," he said.

Lobbyist Gordon noted that even if Brown proposes additional tax dollars for schools, districts for now would have to assume the state would not receive that money.

School fiscal officials tend to budget conservatively, and betting on voters to approve taxes is risky. District officials have already begun proposing additional cutbacks, from eliminating bus service to reducing school days for students.

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