Santa Monica City Manager Rod Gould cited a 2008 RAND study and the interconnectedness between quality schools and property values in a speech during the “State of Our Schools” presentation at the Santa Monica library on Oct. 25.
“I’m proud to work for a city that clearly gets it,” Gould said in his remarks in front of an audience of several dozen, among them Santa Monica City Council and school board members, a Santa Monica police captain, and members of the general public. “It’s tough times for the cities and the schools, but we can get through this difficult period.”
Before yielding the podium to outgoing Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Tim Cuneo, Gould keyed on “strong evidence that strong education affects employment and earnings” and eases the burden on welfare rolls, affects health care and lowers crime. Furthermore, “people will spend a lot on a community with a good school district,” Gould said.
When it was Cuneo’s turn to speak, the superintendent, who is leaving the district when his contract expires in June 2011, used a PowerPoint presentation to highlight key topics including achievement gap found among African-American and Latino students in the district as compared to their white and Asian peers. Using charts and graphs, Cuneo also illustrated the district’s financial outlook for the next several years, which, as the Mirror previously reported, involves deficit spending and severe deficits that usurp the district’s contingency funds set aside by the school board.
The Saving Our Schools campaign this year “helped offset a crisis, but it’s only one time and it’s not sustainable,” the district’s top administrator said. “The board was very prudent, they put money aside and these dollars are like a savings account.” Cuneo pointed to a chart that showed those savings dwindle and completely disappear in 2011-12. “We’ll be almost $10 million down,” he said.
In the 2009-10 school year, the school board implemented $4.6 million in budget cuts that effected the administration, reorganization of Santa Monica High School, renegotiation of contracts, special education and class sizes. In the current year, the board implemented $7.2 million in cuts and in 2011-12, the cuts are projected to be even more severe. More than $3 million was restored as a result of the Saving Our Schools private fund raising campaign, Cuneo said.
Measures Y and YY, if passed by voters Nov. 2, would add about $5 to $6 million per year to the district budget, which is just over $110 million. Because of state-level cuts to education – the current state budget had more than $3.6 billion sliced off – cuts would still have to be made but they would not be as severe, Cuneo said.
“We can’t bank on our community to do this year-in and year-out,” Cuneo said.