School Days

May 23, 2012

As he grapples with $15.7 billion worth of red ink, Gov. Brown has proposed offering school districts the option of making the school year shorter. It's one of the policy choices he's presented if his tax-increase package gets a thumbs down in November.


From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed giving school districts the option of cutting up to 15 days from the school year if voters reject his proposed income and sales tax initiative. The significantly shortened year would help offset a multibillion-dollar automatic mid-year cut that would be implemented upon rejection of the taxes."


"Districts statewide already have the option of cutting five days from the 180-day school calendar in order to reduce costs, and the proposal for three more weeks would be in addition to that. Public schools would take the biggest hit if the taxes fail, as nearly $5.5 billion out of the $6 billion in automatic cuts would come from their budgets under the governor's plan."


"Brown on Tuesday noted that the Legislature would ultimately decide what the so-called "trigger cuts" would entail, but he said that giving schools such an option is the only way to deal with the uncertainty."


Meanwhile, the Legislative Analyst, taking a shot at the governor's budget numbers, has recommended giving the schools less in order to limit deep cuts elsewhere in the budget, such as in social services and health care.


From Greg Lucas at California's Capitol: "Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget gives public schools $1.7 billion more than he is required under state funding formulas, causing reductions of a like amount in other state programs, according to the Legislative Analyst’s recently released assessment of the Democratic governor’s new spending plan."


"The analyst encourages lawmakers, who face a June 15 constitutional deadline to send Brown a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, to “reconsider the governor’s overall May Revision package – a package that spends more on schools and community colleges while simultaneously cutting other areas of the state budget, primarily health, social services, courts ad state employee compensation more deeply.”


"Earlier in May, Brown said the gap over the next 14 months between state revenues and spending commitments had increased from an estimated $9.2 billion in January to $15.7 billion."


But not so fast, said a top Assembly fiscal expert, who says Brown's numbers are accurate.


From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "Rick Simpson, the Assembly's education finance guru, said he believes Brown accurately calculated how much the state owes K-12 schools and community colleges at $53.7 billion in 2012-13. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office contends that Brown overestimated that amount by $1.7 billion."


"Simpson said he wrote the language in the 2009 budget bill spelling out the formula by which the state must pay schools in years when revenues grow faster than inflation and attendance. "The governor is following what the law says," Simpson said today."


Speaking of money, Brown has told business leaders -- again -- to get behind his plan to raise income and sales taxes with voter approval in November.


From the Contra Costa Times' Steve Harmon: "Gov. Jerry Brown hopes that if he can convince business leaders to support his tax-hike initiative, otherwise skeptical voters might just go along with it."


"But, he acknowledged Tuesday, it won't be easy for business groups to go against their philosophy of resisting taxes, so he called on them to "think of something larger than just your small place, wherever you are" to help the state get out from underneath a $15.7 billion deficit."


"This is a bigger challenge than usual, but California is the biggest state and certainly the most creative and most dynamic," he said in a 25-minute address to the state Chamber of Commerce's 87th annual Host Breakfast. "But along with innovation, we have to have another virtue -- and that's called courage."


The multi-pronged fight over changing California's term-limits law has business and labor groups together on one side and Libertarians on the other.


From Will Evans in California Watch: 'The biggest anti-Prop. 28 contribution came from the Liberty Initiative Fund, a new Virginia-based advocacy organization started by longtime ballot initiative activist Paul Jacob. Jacob doesn't like Mitt Romney much better than Barack Obama and wrote of former President George W. Bush's policies: "Too few of us dubbed it 'socialism' back then."


"Jacob said Prop. 28 proponents are "masquerading" as term limit supporters when, in reality, they're trying to weaken them."


"This is a very serious scam being played on the people of California, and we want to do everything we can to alert folks," Jacob said. "If the word gets out, the people will overwhelmingly defeat Prop 28."

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