A Coward's Budget

I apologize for the dearth of blog postings lately. I've been very busy meeting with people and preparing for the election. I attended the excellent ABC's of Campaigning workshop that the League of Women Voters put on at the end of March. I also met with every school district labor organization (FUDTA, SEIA, CSEA, and FSMA). Communication is so critical to the success of a school district, and I work hard to keep the lines of communication open.

But what I want you to focus on is the severe budget cuts that the Governor proposed in January. This is truly ...

A Coward's Budget

Let me remind you the definition of a coward.

Coward - a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.

Governor Schwarzenegger made no attempt with his budget to set any priorities. He simply slashed spending across the board. Contrast his budget proposal with the one from the California Legislative Analyst's office (LAO). It contains much more targeted reductions that better reflect Californians' priorities. I encourage you to read it for yourself - LAO 2008 Budget Analysis: Alternative Budget Overview. If we were to adopt the LAO's proposed budget our schools would still face cuts in services, but would get $2 billion more than the Governor's budget.

Here are just some of the recommendations I've seen that would target cuts and generate revenue for our schools.
  • Roll back Prop 49 after school program spending saving almost $400 million. We lived without these programs in 2005-06 and can live without them again.
  • Suspend or reverse the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), which settled the billions borrowed form schools in 2004-05 but only provided it to low performing schools. We can all live without this money in tough budget times. Suspending it for the 2008-09 year would save approximately $450 million.
  • Combine the state’s 43 categorical programs into fewer programs (as the Legislative Analyst recommends) freeing districts to spend the money most efficiently. (LAO 2008 Budget Analysis: K–12 Categorical Reform)
  • Last year schools were given an Art, music and PE discretionary funds. As important as these are, they are the easiest to give back to help avoid cuts in other areas.
  • Raise new state revenues through eliminating tax credits and/or raising taxes. For example, the Legislative Analyst estimates $1.3 billion in new revenue from reducing the child tax credit. I would gladly give back my child tax credit if I knew it was going to our schools.
Our schools can and will do there part to tighten our belts during these tough times. But our Governor has to try harder for our kids.

What can you do?

To start with you can write the Governor and your legislator. (Example letters can be found here.) Attend rally's being put on throughout the state.

In Fremont, I recently joined a group of concerned parents, teachers, and citizens that are trying to mobilize Fremont. The Fremont School Budget Task Force meets every Sunday and is looking to join with other groups though out the city. In addition to making sure our legislators understand the cost these cuts will have to our kids, we are just as focused on helping put better to the budget crisis. Email me to find out how to get involved.

I truly believe education is the bedrock of our society and our democracy. That’s why I have devoted so much of myself to public schools. And that's why we must stand up to this cowardly budget.

Other resources:

Other state budget-related items and links

  • WHY THIS YEAR IS DIFFERENT by Jean Ross (the executive director of the California Budget Project (CBP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research group based in Sacramento). I heard Ms. Ross speak at a town hall meeting put on by our Assemblyman Alberto Torrico in March. This is one of the best explanation I've seen of the budget mess we're in.
  • The Argus recently posted an interesting editorial entitled California schools can survive budget cuts. I don't completely agree with this editorial. Yes our schools may survive, but at what costs to students that only get one education. Still I am glad that they reference the Legislative Analyst's recommendations. They are very sensible.
  • For more Fremont-specific background refer to my posting from February. It is still mostly correct. I will post more as I learn about it.
  • Next week I am going to the 2008 EdSource Forum on California Education Policy where the subject will include budget and education reform.  This has been an informative conference in the past. I hope all our legislators pay close attention to the recommendations coming from this and other sources.
  • For those of you who like details, this Analysis of Governor's 2008-09 Budget does a good job of explaining how school funding is calculated and what funds the Governor's budget cuts.
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