Friday, January 07, 2005

California Insider - The schools

California Insider - The schools

The schools

With word leaking out that Schwarzenegger plans to propose giving K-14 education less than they expected in the coming year, all hell is breaking loose in and around the Capitol. Here’s some perspective:

--The governor does seem to be violating at least the spirit of his agreement a year ago with the education lobby. They supported his budget proposal to suspend Proposition 98, the minimum guarantee for school funding, and take $2 billion that otherwise would have gone to their budgets. In return, he pledged to give them no less than the minimum required by Proposition 98 in future years.

--As it happened, revenues in the current year exceeded the forecast, automatically triggering an unexpected increase in the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee. The schools believe this means they are due at least an additional $1.1 billion in the current school year, plus another $1.1 billion next year beyond what everyone thought they were going to get.

--To give them the extra money would take a separate act by the Legislature. The way the law was written, if lawmakers do nothing, the schools get exactly what was budgeted last summer. The non-partisan legislative analyst recommends that the Legislature do nothing, save the $2.2 billion over two years (she says it's more like $2.8 billion) and use the money for other state programs. This would wipe out about one-third of the shortfall facing the state in the coming year, while still leaving the schools with sufficient money to keep pace with enrollment growth and inflation.

--The governor plans to propose giving schools about $2 billion less than they think they are owed. Overall, they still would get an increase of $2.4 billion year over year in state and local funds, more than enough to keep pace with enrollment demands and price increases.

--In a separate move, the governor is also proposing to shift pension obligations for school employees entirely to the schools, rather than having the state general fund shoulder part of this burden. This could cost the schools as much as $1.1 billion in the coming year, taking away from their ability to fund programs at their current level.

--So, depending on how the pension fight turns out, the schools will be getting significantly more money than last year, more even than they thought they would be getting when they signed onto the governor’s deal. But they will be getting less than what they can legitimately argue they are due. And if they also have to take on the pension obligations in the coming year, they will be severely pinched, if not cut.

For a press critic’s view of how this issue is portrayed in the media, see Patterico’s rant here on the way the LA Times two years in a row has portrayed a big increase in school budget as a “cut.”

1 comment:

  1. The question is whether it's a real cut when population and inflation are factored in. Neither side has been, er, honest about this yet.

    Is it a cut in dollars? No. Is it a cut from AS's promise? Yes. Is it a real cut? You tell me.