13 02, 08 23:30 Filed in: School Board Meeting
Here are a few highlights from tonight's school board meeting (agenda
and background packet
). The board considered several items tonight including the high school course catalog, summer school, and technology-related items, but by far the most important was the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Budget Report.2007-08 and 2008-09 Budget Report
Assistant Superintendent of Business Bill Stephens in the board agenda item states, "It is the worse budget [the California] education [community] can recall being presented." That summarizes this dire situation well.
There are two aspects.
- The governor has declared a financial emergency and called for mid-year budget cuts (including $400 million in statewide education cuts. In the worst case that could mean a $1.3 million cut in Fremont. However, the state analyst believes there are enough categorical funds at the state level to cover these cuts.
- Next year's budget -- (2008-09): The state has a deficit of $14.5 billion or more. The cuts proposed to education are enormous -- over $4 billion. Preliminary figures suggest cuts of almost $7 million to Fremont's budget. More details can be found in Mr. Stephens' agenda item which I have attached with my notes from the meeting.
In preparation for this, FUSD has identified $1.6 million dollars that can be saved now mostly from not filling vacant positions. While that is by far the least painful way to save money, it still means there are important services are students aren't getting.
A more detailed list of budget impacts will be presented at the next school board meeting. The Argus also provides a good summary of the steps Fremont and other local school districts are taking to prepare for budget cuts at Inside Bay Area - Fremont schools brace for cuts
Superintendent Doug Gephart urged everyone to reach out to their legislators now. "Right now it is quiet on this topic in Sacarmento... We can not wait until May. We have to assume the worst case scenario now and get the word out to our legislators." I agree. It is likely that the legislature won't cut education as severely as the governor proposes but it will be a difficult fight in Sacramento. Without a doubt education will be impacted like many programs, but the more we can educate our legislators the better decisions they can make. Instead of a blunt across the board cut in budgets they can be more targeted.Are these real cuts?
Many parts of the state budget grow each your by a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), which is a figure that accounts for the increase in costs (e.g. rising health insurance, employee salaries, rising energy costs, etc.). So while we call these cuts many are really just a slowing of how much the budget will grow over last year. But the impact of this is still there. If revenues don't keep up with the increase in costs, then valuable programs and services get cut.
However, the governor's education proposal is more than just a slowing; it is a real cut. From the California School Board Association: "Since the Proposition 98 guarantee will grow by less than $4 billion next year, there will be an actual year to year reduction of $865 million."
On the personal side...
Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience dealing with tough school budgets. This is the third time I've seen severe cuts in Fremont education.
So where's the hope?
- 1991-92 - As a student board member I had to accept the elimination of counselors among other serious cuts. Some of these cuts have never been restored.
- 2002-03 and 2003-04 - As a member of the Financial Advisory Committee I helped the district and board evaluate over $7 million in cuts. Much of this was never returned to our district when the CTA and governor settled on a deal that provided that to low performing schools. (I have no problem supporting low performing students and feel the money should have gone to the students not the schools. Our low performing students are left out of this source of funding.)
- 2007-08 and 2008-09 - We don't know how bad it will be this time, but the district is right to prepare as best as we can. I will be doing everything I can to help our district this time too.
As grim as this seems, I know we will find a solution. If we can confront the brutal facts without losing sight of the students and staying positive I believe we will survive this and even thrive. This is one of the key tricks to building a great organization.
The excellent book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
which was recommended to me by Trustee Lara York talks about this as the Stockdale Paradox
The Stockdale Paradox:
|Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.||AND at the same time||Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.|
This applies just as much to school districts as it does corporations.
Other places to find budget information