Governor Brown’s budget proposal threatens sharp education cuts

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Robert Katz, Staff Writer

On Monday, Jan. 14, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a collection of budget cuts dealing with the state’s swollen deficit, which has reached $15.7 billion, an unfortunate far cry from the $9.2 billion estimated by the state in January.

This will, naturally, lead to more severe cuts to healthcare, welfare and salary spending, along with education. Already, education cuts have been proposed in the form of reductions to Proposition 98, which established a minimum funding to public schools, to the tune of $932 million, along with a decrease of $450 million to the Quality Education Investment Act, which provides various aid to schools in the two lowest deciles of API scores.

However, Brown has decided on a November ballot measure, with which he seeks to raise sales and income taxes on higher earners, filling an $8.5 billion void in the deficit, to decide the fate of education spending, which could take a nosedive. To be precise, public schools and community colleges will reportedly lose about $5.5 billion and the UC and Cal State University systems will have about $250 million excised, each, which would lead to increased limits on enrollment.

In more apparent terms, should the ballot be rejected, schools will also have to forgo about 15 days during the next two school years, which, while a small complement to our shortened summers as a result of the school’s own reorganization, can only be a loss to schedules that barely make the cut as it is. It can only be imagined that AP schedules, which must adhere to a set-in-stone test date lingering in the middle of May, would suffer tremendously from a week less of content review or instruction.

Not all is doom and gloom, as the budget also proposes implementation of a weighted pupil funding formula. This system allocates a certain dollar amount in funding for each student enrolled in a school, with more funding given for students that require additional aid, allowing for a more dynamic system of funding, at least on paper. Additionally, school districts will be given increased flexibility to spend funds on whatever purpose they please.

However, more control over money doesn’t make more money, which is the crux of the problem. The frightening reality is that the education budget is on thinner ice than it was a year ago and it might just fall through come winter. In fact, reasonable concern should be focused on the fact that the brunt of Brown’s threats are toward education; this is specifically what will be on the line, a singled-out issue.

As someone who isn’t particularly wealthy nor in charge of any taxes, I can’t speak for taxpayers on this. However, while the Beverly Hills Unified School District is funded by the city’s property taxes and thus we are not directly affected, I can speak as a student (it’s funny how you can only be one or the other) and say that I wouldn’t be looking very much forward to life as a junior in a district with even deeper financial gashes. Additionally, school districts such as ours might look to outside districts for ideas of managing budgets in future, more serious times, and I would not like to see the Los Angeles Unified School District’s plans being used as a precedent should the ballot fail. However, with businesses and the middle class both already threatened by taxes and likely not interested in accepting higher fees, the fate of our education is a bit up in the air and I don’t know if we’ll be happy to see it fall back down.

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