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Guest columnist

Governor’s education cuts not in line with his promises

By: Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County Superintendent of Schools
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This past January, when the governor was delivering his State of the State address and singing the praises of public education, the education community was bracing itself for the other shoe to drop ““ and it did two days later when the governor released his proposed budget for 2008-09. We were stunned that the governor would kick off his proclaimed Year of Education by cutting public education across the board by 10 percent ““ resulting in a $4.4 billion dollar decrease to the already appallingly under funded California public schools. Days following the release, my office conducted a financial analysis to determine the impact of the proposed budget to the schools and districts in our county. The analysis of the proposed budget was shocking ““ in less than a week, of the 17 financially solvent school districts in Placer County, 10 went from living within their means and maintaining a fiscally appropriate reserve to being unable to meet their mandated reserve and possibly being unable to pay their bills and make payroll in 2008. We soon learned that Placer County was representative of what was happening across the state ““ 60 percent of the state's schools and districts would move from fiscally solvent to fiscally insolvent. Education leaders across the state and in our county knew what needed to happen ““ in order to stay fiscally solvent, unprecedented cuts would have to be made in response to the Governor's proposed budget. School districts across our county have to make very difficult decisions this week ““ jeopardize their fiscal health and fall under county office of education and/or state fiscal oversight or jeopardize their educational programs for which Placer County has been renowned. Many districts to maintain their fiscal health are having to notice hundreds of teachers, counselors, specialists, and administrators of potential lay-offs throughout our region; non-mandated programs such as visual and performing arts, supplemental instruction, fieldtrips, extra-curricular activities, after school programs, athletic programs, and transportation are all at risk for elimination; support personnel such as custodians, instructional aides, campus supervisors, bus drivers, office clerks and food service employees will also receive lay-off notices. In Placer County alone, our districts stand to lose more than $25 million dollars in general fund revenue and another $8 million in categorical funding for a total of $33 million dollars in loss of revenue. That equates to approximately $580 less per student funding for our county. To help put this in perspective, California currently ranks 46th in the nation for per pupil spending and approximately $1,900 less per student than the national average ““ cutting per pupil spending by $580 dollars per student further restricts the ability of educators to provide a high quality education system. California has one of the most rigorous standards in the nation and one of the most comprehensive accountability systems measuring student achievement. Each year statewide test scores show improvement and growth, and Placer County is no exception. As one of the highest performing counties in the state, our districts use their resources efficiently and effectively. Voters across the state have continually supported public education and have recognized the need for stable, on-going funding with the enactment of Proposition 98 nearly 20 years ago. Two years ago, the voters of California again stood up for education with the defeat of Proposition 76 which sought to lower this basic funding floor for education. Now is not the time for the integrity of Proposition 98 to be challenged, but rather our lawmakers must seriously consider the budget prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office which rejects the notion that the budget shortfall should be resolved through cuts alone and instead provides a list of tax exemptions, credits and loopholes that can be reduced or eliminated to generate an estimated $2.7 billion in additional revenues. We are encouraged of the governor's recent consideration of measures to reduce the deficit besides cuts alone. Placer County is proud of the teachers, the support staff, facilities and the quality education that is found throughout our county and it would be heartbreaking to see what this budget will do to this county's finest and most precious commodity, our children. Gayle Garbolino-Mojica is Placer County Superintendent of Schools. She can be reached at (530) 889-5922 or ggarbolino@placercoe.k12.ca.us.