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California school year might be trimmed by a week, report warns

November 16, 2011 | 10:31 am

Students in a class at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Arleta

California's economic recovery is so sluggish it will likely force automatic budget cuts that could shave up to a week off the school year, according to a report Wednesday from the legislative analyst's office.

The report projects a $3.7-billion hole in the current budget due to declining tax revenues. That gap is enough to trigger automatic reductions in spending on education and social services -- $100 million from the budgets of the University of California and the Cal State systems each, as well as more than $1 billion in cuts to K-12 districts. The state would forbid those districts from laying off teachers but give them authority to cut the school year by one week. 

The cuts are not a done deal. They will happen only if both the legislative analyst's office and the state's Department of Finance project a severe shortfall. The forecast from the Department of Finance is due next month. Legislators could try to make a last-ditch attempt to change the composition of the cuts, though Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed one such attempt in September.

The automatic cuts were built into the $87-billion budget that Brown signed in June. That budget was criticized for relying on rosy revenue forecasts. Democrats, who passed the budget with no Republican support, countered that they built in a mechanism to ensure it would be balanced even if tax revenues dropped.

The legislative analyst's office is pessimistic about the prospects of the state's economy generating those revenues.  "We project a continuation of this slow, arduous recovery, with California's unemployment rate remaining above 10% through mid-2014 and above 8% through the end of 2017," the report states.

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-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

Photo: Students work in a class at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Arleta in 2010. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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