With some welcome news for the education community, Gov. Jerry Brown this week released his revised budget proposal which included $3 billion in increased funding for K-12 public schools in California.
The Governor's budget comes after a weeklong protest at the State Capitol by teachers, students and parents, urging the Legislature to pass tax extensions due to expire June 30.
“For years, the state has shortchanged public education in order to balance the budget, forcing school districts to borrow in order to balance their budgets,” the Governor’s office wrote. “...Even with this new infusion of funds, California schools are still owed billions by the state.”
In response to the news, State Superintendent of Schools, Tom Torlakson, said, “The $3-billion increase in education funding proposed by the Governor is welcome news to schools across the state where students are eager to learn; parents are engaged; and teachers, administrators and school employees are working day and night to help our students achieve.”
If passed by the Legislature, the increase could mean $7.4 million to the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, said Superintendent Stan Scheer by phone on Wednesday.
Portions of that $7.4 million, though, would cover payments already deferred by the state for 2010-2011. The district built its second interim budget with the $7.4 million, which equated to a loss of $349 per student but reserved a like amount in the ending balance to protect against the tax extensions not being passed.
To help make up the loss, the Murrieta Teachers Association agreed to take 10 furlough days, for which next school year was shortened to accommodate. The district’s support workers’ union agreed to take three to six furlough days next year, depending on their work day.
“It is a lot easier to change if in fact the revenue is there,” Scheer said. “We are getting signals from the state that it is very good news. Right now we are hopeful.”
In his budget proposal, Gov. Brown says it “reduces by nearly $3 billion the amount of taxes needed to balance the budget, spurs job creation through new tax incentives and pays off most of the $34.7 billion debt built up over the last decade.”
Scheer said that in the past, the Legislature has been slow or late to approve a budget, but that this year he is looking forward to something concrete much sooner. New laws are in effect: there doesn’t need to be a super-majority to pass a budget and legislators don’t get paid for every day after June 15 if a budget isn’t passed.
The district’s agreements with its labor unions include restoration of furlough days should the budget outlook improve.
“It would be really easy to restructure our days,” Scheer said. One day was built onto the beginning of the school year, and the rest were placed at the end of the school year. Students are to see five fewer school days in 2011-2012, with the last day of school being May 31.
“The only thing we are waiting on is to see the final result to see how much we can restore,” Scheer said. “We will still be running on the deficit side.”
Murrieta Teachers Association President Chuck Smith said if the Governor’s budget does get approved, he would want the student days restored first.
“It’s better to bring those days back--maybe not for the teachers--but that is why we put them at the end of the year, so they would be easier to bring back.
“The worst case is that it is a movement forward, that is the message we hope to get out. Every year it seems like the state is spending less on education and expecting more.”
In a news release, Torlakson urged Republicans and Democrats to come to a long-term solution for California’s schools.
“The alternative to the Governor’s plan is to impose devastating additional cuts that our schools cannot afford—further crowding classrooms, laying off even more teachers, and shortening a school year that is already one of the shortest in the industrialized world.”