Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Governor's May Revise

By Gary Eberhart, MDUSD - Mt. Diablo Unified School District Blog

Many of us in the public education space have been waiting to see the Governor's May Revise and now it's HERE. Before the ink was dry on the Governor's May Revise I was already getting calls from local media wanting to get the District's take on the additional $3 billion in the Governor's budget for k-12 education. I was thinking to myself, what additional $3 billion? Was I listening to the governor of a different state speak and thought it was Governor Brown? I could have sworn the documents that I had read were indicating that we were going to see more cuts.

The State's education budget is the most complex financial document on the planet. I guess that's why most people don't take the time to look at it.

One simple concept that pertains to education spending is Prop. 98. In a nut shell, prop 98 was passed by voters in 1988 and ensured that a minimum of 39% of the State's budget had to be spent on education.

Today the Governor said that he would increase the amount of money that would be spent under prop 98 and the crowds cheered. When you dig a little deeper you'll see that it's just not true. What the Governor is proposing is that rather than the State operating the mental health services for children and paying for the program through Counties, now all mental health services for children will be provided for by school districts. The State says that they will reimburse a portion of the costs, but we're not sure at what level. What is clear is that now the State will consider that additional spending as an expenditure that falls under prop. 98's guaranteed minimum. In other words, they are taking money that they were already spending that was outside of prop. 98 and now including it under prop. 98 which allows the State to reduce spending under prop. 98 because with the additional mental health spending included, they are over the required 39% minimum.

That is just one factor of the new proposed budget. There is also reference to extending current State taxes, something that the Republicans have vowed not to allow. So if those tax extensions don't occur as predicted in the Governor's May Revise, cuts to education will have to be made and those cuts will likely be made mid-year. Our school district establishes it's budget by June 30th each year and we are forced by mandate to commit most of the revenue in the budget at that time. Trying to enact mid-year spending cuts is next to impossible. For instance, teachers have been guaranteed a job, as required by law, by March 15th each year for the following year. So if the Governor creates a new budget in December 2011 that requires the district to make significant cuts that school year, we will not be able to lay off any teachers because of State Education Code Mandates. If we as a district believe that mid-year cuts are possible, we will have to budget for them now and hope for the best. If we want to remain financially solvent, we budget for the worst case scenario and hope for the best.

More analysis is needed for sure, but I wanted to get the information that I had out there. What have you heard about the budget? Do you think that the Governor has produced a May Revise that will help our schools? How do you feel the State Legislature and Governor are doing? Is the education of our students important enough to look once again and local revenue solutions.

Article HERE.
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