Wednesday, May 10, 2006

CA Education lobby & Gov. Schwarzenegger Cut New Deal to pay CA schools $5 billion owed

As our schools in San Francisco Unified School District plan for $6 million of budget cuts for this year and probably double that amount of cuts for next year, we are closely following the deal making in Sacramento around the state budget and the reports of the $5 billion boom in state revenue.

2 days before CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's scheduled announcement of his "May Revise" budget proposal, the LA Times is already reporting this morning that the "education lobby" [CTA and various education groups] has successfully cut another deal with the Governor, this time ensuring that a good chunk of the $5+ billion in extra unexpected state revenue will be repaid to our school districts. With Extra $5 Billion, Governor Plans to Pay Debt, Aid Schools.

Under the agreement, schools would be repaid more than the $3 billion education groups say they are owed because of cuts imposed in leaner times. An additional $2 billion would be provided for low-achieving schools, to help cover the cost of various state-mandated programs, and to create arts, physical fitness, vocational education and other programs. ...

"You can't put aside billions of dollars to retire debt while at the same time cut back on essential programs and services to senior citizens and the poor," Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said. Nuñez, who has been demanding more money in the budget for schools, declined to comment on Schwarzenegger's plan for that area.

The Times reports that the school plan came together this week in an agreement between the administration and the education lobby. Apparently the money will be stretched out over the course of several years, starting with a $2-billion down payment in the budget year that begins July 1. They also reported that the 'deal' will likely resolve the California Teachers Association Lawsuit filed in August 2005 to force the Governor to to fully fund education and keep the promise made to public schools and students by allocating the money owed to schools under state law.

Our local San Francisco Unified School District number crunchers estimated last year that if the state had paid our district what it owed us under Proposition 98 guarantees, we would have had some $69 million more for our schools and students, and we would not have had to close, merge or move the dozens of schools we have in the last year and a half. The budget deal is great news but it is very bittersweet because we as a school board and district cannot undo the damage, especially to low income communities of color in San Francisco, caused by our several rounds of cuts and closures.

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