Opinion: Dark Days for State’s Education Budget

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to convince Californians to vote for tax hike to support schools.

January has become the darkest time of the year for public education in California. Every winter for the last several years we’ve seen the state hand down bad news for public schools as wishful budgets made in the endless summer of wrangling in Sacramento have met the reality of winter’s measly revenue haul.

In December, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that the “trigger cuts” written into last fall’s budget would be activated, slashing $1 billion from this year’s spending, including $248 from state support for school transportation; $38 million of that was cut directly from LAUSD, which is suing the state over the cuts.

The new year did not bring better news. Now Brown, who couldn’t get intransigent Republicans in the Legislature to reach an agreement on raising taxes, is saying that the voters must approve his $6.9 billion tax increase plan on the November ballot, including a higher rate for income over $250,000 and a half-cent sales tax hike.

If the ballot measure fails, Brown says, education will have to be cut by another $4.8 billion, likely shaving three weeks of instruction from the school year. Even if his tax plan passes, Brown’s budget will take another $2.2 billion from schools, using a legally questionable budget maneuver. Now the state Legislative Analyst’s Office is questioning Brown’s math, saying his tax hike could generate as little as $4.8 billion.

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