California State Assemblymember Julia Brownley, whose district includes Santa Monica, warned that our state school system is facing over $2 billion in cuts due to the woeful state of California’s fiscal health. At a recent forum in Santa Monica, Brownley explained that the state’s current budget crisis is the worst in California’s history “because the forecast over the next five-year period looks so bleak.”
Brownley made her remarks at a forum titled “Why Sacramento Matters: How It Impacts Our Schools” held at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified District’s (SMMUSD) headquarters on November 8. She noted that California’s officials are predicting an annual shortfall of $22 billion for the next five years, barring effective corrective action. The state got into to this position due to the national and world economic crisis, the structural deficit that the state has been facing continually for the last seven years, and because the state is not receiving revenue from vehicle license fees.
According to Brownley, the state has been “borrowing, borrowing, and borrowing” in order to balance its budget and now they have to begin to pay all those loans back. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already cut the education budget for this year, and additional $2.2 billion in further mid-year cuts might need to be made.
These cuts may be necessary because state economic conditions have deteriorated radically since the Governor signed the 2008 budget on September 23. California now faces receiving $11.2 billion less in revenue than when the budget was signed.
Sacramento is presently trying to deal with the budget crisis by asking Washington for help, and lawmakers are hoping that any new federal stimulus package would provide at least $5 billion to California. They are also looking at making cuts in services and trying to figure out how to generate new revenue streams.
Another forum participant, Darlene Robles, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, explained that 80 percent of public school funding comes from the state, and that a $2.2 billion statewide cut in education would translate to a cut of $327 per student.
Interim Superintendent Tim Cueno stated that SMMUSD this year is already engaged in deficit spending of $4 million. If the $2.2 billion educational cut is made, it could means a loss in the SMMUSD of 50 teachers, 55 classified employees, 10 administrators, larger class sizes, and no library services. Basically, the District would be reduced to offering students a “core program” of education with no enrichments. He also noted that if the state’s investment in education continues to deteriorate, the state would not be able to “keep and recruit good educators. “
Brownley stated at the end of the forum that she will “continue to fight for a larger investment in education by the state because we still have a long way to go.”