Thursday, January 26, 2012


by Beth Chagonjian‚ Beyond Chron/School Beat |

Jan. 26‚ 2012 :: Governor Brown's budget was recently (and inadvertently) released online. Unfortunately, what was revealed was a budget full of speculation and "what ifs" that could potentially leave schools and education in a worse condition than that in which they currently find themselves.

How could this be so? This year the budget is dependent upon you and I and our neighbors voting to increase our own taxes. And in and of itself, this is not an impossibility. Indeed, many surveys have indicated that the California voter is willing to spend money on education and other services designed to make this state a better place.

So what's the problem? The problem is that the measure won't even be on the ballot until November 15th. Which means no money until after November 15th. So we are left with a bunch of big "what ifs?" in a budget asking for money based on surveys which have been known to be wrong and on opinions that have been known to change. And you can add to this equation the fact that the revenues are only temporary.

At this point, school districts are carefully analyzing the budget and are in a quandary--how can they draft their own budgets (as required under state law) without knowing how much money they might receive? The new budget could potentially offer as much as $300 more per student, or it could take away about another $5 billion dollars (the equivalent of three weeks of school). This puts school districts in the position of having to look at the worst case scenario and prepare for it now. Why? Because current law requires that teacher layoff notices be issued by March 15th, which is right around the corner. So schools will be planning for layoffs, larger class sizes, and cuts to libraries, art, and music.

Let's say, though (since we are speculating) that the initiative passes and the magic money comes into existence. How will school districts hire back all of the teachers who have been laid off? Will schools be able to add days to a school year that has already been set? How will parents and families adjust their schedules to deal with this uncertainty?

On a positive note, however, the new budget does contain one little item of reform for the better. The budget changes the convoluted method by which educational funds are doled out to schools to a weighted-student formula (for more information click on the budget summary.) This change will mean less red-tape and more equity.

One thing is for certain, this budget, while potentially better than the current budget, is still the White Elephant gift that no one wanted for Christmas. And the really bad news is that it can't be returned for a refund

Beth Chagonjian has been involved with Educate Our State for over a year now. She is a California native mother of two children who attend California public schools and practices law in her spare time.

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