Budget Shortchanges Students

On top of the astonishing $17 billion in cuts to schools imposed over the past two years, the new budget deal provides California’s students $4.3 billion less than they are owed under Proposition 98, the minimum school funding guarantee. The budget agreement also fails to provide any new, stable revenue streams for schools.

"ACSA and other members of the Education Coalition are disheartened by the ongoing cuts to public schools," said ACSA Executive Director Bob Wells. "Our only recourse is to continue to pursue a legal ruling against California on school finance."

Drastic cuts have indelibly changed the face of public education in the state of California, with 30,000 teachers laid off over the past two years, and overflowing class sizes becoming the norm for students. School libraries not only shortened their hours, but many closed their doors entirely as school librarians lost their jobs. Many arts and physical education programs landed on the chopping block, while schools often were forced to scrimp and improvise in bizarre ways, like a band class at a Sacramento middle school where students had to learn how to play a “pencil” instead of an actual musical instrument.

Many community college students decided to put off their dreams of getting a college degree – instead finding a low-wage job in lieu of paying for another semester where they weren’t able to get the courses they needed for their major or to graduate. Others were denied financial aid they needed to enroll in classes in the first place, or found that the fee increases were insurmountable.

Though the current budget agreement represents an improvement over the May Revision budget proposal because it rejects billions more in cuts to schools proposed by the governor, it still shortchanges students in California at a time when education is the single most important factor in assuring our state’s long-term economic and job growth. The continued use of accounting maneuvers, such as a $1.7 billion deferral, (bringing total deferrals from the past three years to $7 billion) only “kicks the can” further down the road, creating even more problems for public schools next year.

With no long-term fixes, nor additional, stable revenues in place to guarantee students the education they deserve, the billions in funding delays included in this proposal essentially serve as cuts to students who will never be able to “do over” their current school year.

The legislature also did not make available to the public specific language in the budget bills prior to the vote, which makes it even more difficult to assess the full impact of the deal.