Gov. Jerry Brown talks budget concerns with school advocates
Wary school advocates huddled privately with Gov. Jerry Brown in the Capitol on Friday to discuss education spending, outlining their concerns about the governor’s budget proposals.
“It was cordial. We all laid out our issues and agreed to continue talking,” said Dennis Meyers of the California School Boards Assn.
Some of the districts’ worries were highlighted earlier this month by the Legislative Analysts’ Office. Although Brown is asking voters to approve tax hikes in November to help cover school costs, districts may cut money preemptively to brace themselves in case the proposal fails.
And if voters turn down the taxes, Brown says schools would lose $4.8 billion. The administration has said it is working on legislation to help districts create contingency plans.
But there are other sore spots as well, and school advocates say the Brown administration is trying to unfairly manipulate Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment requiring the state to spend about 40% of its budget on public schools.
For example, Brown wants to remove the gas tax from the state’s calculation on school funding. That would reduce spending by roughly $300 million.
And if his tax plan fails, Brown suggests using $2.4 billion in debt payments to meet the constitutional requirement on education spending. That would free up $2.4 billion in classroom funding for other purposes.
“It’s $2.4 billion we wouldn’t have to hire teachers and serve students,” said Bob Wells, executive director of the Assn. of California School Administrators. “And it’s just an obvious violation of what voters approved when they put Proposition 98 in the Constitution.”
The governor's office declinedto comment on Thursday's meeting. Many of Brown's budget proposals are going to be the subject of intense negotiation with the Legislature and advocacy groups until the June 30 deadline to approve next year's spending plan.
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in a classroom last year. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento