K-12 school cuts minimized, community colleges take big hit
Cuts to schools not as severe as originally believed
Local school superintendents expressed sighs of relief following California Gov. Gerry Brown’s noontime announcement Tuesday regarding mid-year spending cuts for schools.
Though the governor decided to minimize the cut to K-12 schools — cutting only $248 million from bus transportation and $79.6 million from general per-student funding — colleges were not as fortunate, taking a $102 million mid-year cut, effective January.
For Porterville College, as well as other community colleges, it means increasing the per-unit credit fee to $46, effective summer 2012.
Specifically for community colleges, $30 million will be treated as a one-time deficit, and $72 million will be permanently reduced — spread across each district’s apportionment as yet another workload reduction, meaning permanent reduction in access to courses for students.
“Recall that in the Kern Community College District, our District and College budgets were developed and adopted as if both triggers would go into effect if the Department of Finance made a determination by December 15, 2011, that State revenue would be $2.2 billion below the budget assumptions made in June,” said Kern Community College District Chancellor Sandra Serrano. “As a result of our district-wide planning, KCCD will not have any additional negative impact this budget year ending June 30, 2012. However, if revenues continue to lag, this suggests that 2012-13 will be another difficult budget year.”
However, KCCD remains on track with its financial plan, which includes exercising restraint in spending and using reserves to diminish budget cuts.
“Our priorities continue to be to educate students and retain our employees,” Serrano said. “Together we will protect our mission to provide outstanding educational programs and services to our diverse students and communities.”
In k-12 schools, even though home-to-school transportation will be cut, Porterville Unified, Burton and Woodville districts all said losing the transportation fund would not be detrimental due to advanced planning.
The state contributes $30,470 as its fair share of the Burton School District, said school superintendent Gary Mekeel. And because it is an insignificant amount of funding, the district runs its buses through the general fund, Mekeel said.
At PUSD — a district with 50 buses, 20 of them for special needs, that covers more than 3,000 square miles — the cut will hurt but won’t stop the transportation.
PUSD has a projected income from the state for home-to-school transportation of $1.47 million, and a total transportation budget of $2.1 million.
Snavely had said earlier in the year that transportaiton would not be eliminated and that funds would need to be transferred around.
Fortuantely, less money than thought was lost.
“From our standpoint, this is welcomed news,” said Porterville Unified School District Superintendent John Snavely. “Of course, no cut is ever good but this is much more tolerable than the previous [possibility] of cutting as much as $3-4-5 million more.”
The figures cut by the Governor — slightly less than $1 billion — means PUSD students will lose $15 each, not the $180 to $200 per student previously feared, Snavely said.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Brown held a press conference in Sacramento for his announcement.
“Today, the trigger cuts are going into affect,” Brown said. “Fortunately, not the full $2.4 billion but slightly less than a $1 billion.”
Brown went on to report good news about the recovery of the true economy of the state, and the state’s creation of close to $100 billion in 2011 alone.
“Still, that’s no enough to close the California deficit that has been building up for years,” Brown said. “Earlier in the year we cut $16 billion of the state budget. Then cut further, with trigger cuts put into place.”
Brown referred to the trigger cuts as a process of fiscal discipline.
“In a nutshell, $1 billion has been cut, there’s more to follow in January, and hopefully not any more to follow in November — because we will have more trigger cuts, premised on whether or not people vote for taxes. All I can say is you can’t provide what you don’t have. You either tax or you cut. There’s no third way. There’s no alternative.”
During a question-and-answer segment at the press conference, Brown said the state was fortunate to get half the revenue.
“We did hope for more and we got more but not as much as we wanted,” Brown said.
Fortunately, the program of not laying off teachers worked, Brown said, because the cuts were far less than they could have been.
That was good news for the Burton School District too.
“We’re very grateful. The economic outlook has improved, at least for a place like Burton School District,” Mekeel said. “While any dollars lost is dollars we wish we had for our students, the loss of our transportation fund is not going to significantly hurt.”
The district will lose one half of one day of Average Daily Attendance — or approximately $42,000 for Burton School District, translating to an approximate $11 loss per student.
“In total, that’s $72,000 less to spend on programs and our children. But we’ll still be able to continue without any disruption to currently offered programs and no staff will be reviewed for reduction.”
Mekeel expressed concern for neighboring school districts with large transportation areas to support and said he did not know how many more cuts the districts can take.
“We’ve already lost 20-percent of our original funding over four years,” Mekeel said. “We’re about as efficient a program as we can be. I don’t know how much more we can take.”
For the Woodville Union Elementary School District, Superintendent Dago Garcia said the loss will not make much of a difference to them.
Though most of the Woodville Elementary pupils walk from the surrounding neighborhoods, there are another approximate 150 students transported from the Woodville Labor Camp 4.5 miles away. The district received a little more than $82,000 from the state for the home-to-school transportation.
“We’ve been preparing since the beginning for the worst and started talking with the school board and setting money aside for a big-case scenario,” Garcia said. “The transportation is the first to be hit but we organized our routes and talked to parents. In the short term, it’s not an issue for us. We were prepared and I am glad it was not as bad as we were expecting. But in the same token, we’re not out of the water yet. I’m sure funding will still be impacted.”
What Garcia said he feared was the unknown.
“For the year, we’re covered. We’ll make it through the year with our funds OK. But what about the beginning of the next school year and the year after? In three years we will barely be making it. Our reserves will be depleted,” Garcia said. “Going into the great unknown is a big concern. If this continues, we’ll have to find other creative ways to keep going. I do not like the unknown of the entire process.
Statewide, the news was bad for education, said Sate Superintendent Tom Torlakson in an issued statement following the press conference.
“It’s a sad day for California. Taking hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools—on top of the $18 billion in cuts they have already suffered will only make life harder for students in California’s chronically underfunded schools,” Torlakson said. “Mothballing school bus fleets across the state will mean many rural, disabled, and low-income students literally will have no safe way to get to school. Children will lose child care, students will lose the opportunity for a college education, and our overcrowded classrooms will continue to be jammed with 35 to 40 students. That’s not the kind of education or state we want. This is not the California our children deserve.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045, or email@example.com.
Here is a look at the so-called trigger cuts:
— $100 million to the University of California.
— $100 million to California State University.
— $100 million to the Department of Developmental Services, and $200 million starting July 1, 2012.
— $100 million for In-Home Supportive Services; also imposes a 20 percent reduction in service hours.
— $72.1 million to juvenile justice; increase county charge for youth offenders sent to the adult prison system.
— $30 million by increasing community college fees by $10 per unit starting May 1, 2012.
— $23 million by cutting 7,500 child care assistance slots.
— $20 million to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
— $15.9 million in state grants for local libraries.
— $8.6 million in Medi-Cal savings; extends a cut to providers in all managed care plans.
— $14.6 million by eliminating grants to district attorney’s offices for a trend referred to as “vertical prosecution.”
— $10 million by eliminating IHSS anti-fraud efforts.
Because revenue fell short by more than $2 billion, the following cuts will be made to public schools:
— $248 million by eliminating home-to-school transportation.
— $79.6 million to school districts, county offices of education and charter schools.
— $102 million to community colleges.