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Report: Mixed grades for Gov. Jerry Brown's school proposals

February 6, 2012 |  1:00 pm

Mac Taylor

The state’s top budget analyst praised several aspects of Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding proposals in a report released Monday, but he repeated his concerns about the tax plan the governor says will save education from billions in cuts.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said districts should have more flexibility to cut their budgets if the tax plan fails at the ballot box in November. That could mean shortening the school year or allowing districts to increase class sizes.

Brown wants voters to approve temporary increases in the sales tax and levies on the wealthiest. Without the tax hikes, he says education funding would be cut by $4.8 billion in the middle of the school year.

If the tax plan is voted down, the governor would shift debt payments in the budget to make ends meet. That could jeopardize even more school funding if the market causes payments to fluctuate, the report said.

Taylor has already warned that districts will likely cut spending ahead of the November vote just in case the tax hikes fail, undercutting Brown's proposal.

In other part's of Monday's wide-ranging report, Taylor praised several of Brown’s education proposals. In particular, he highlighted Brown’s effort to downsize the overburdened mandate system, which has left the state on the hook for $3.6 billion in services it requires local school districts to provide.

Brown wants to eliminate half of the state’s roughly 50 mandates and make the rest optional. Under the governor’s budget proposal, the state would set aside $200 million for “block grants” to schools that still provide the optional services.

The governor also wants to alter the state’s school funding formula, which Taylor said is currently “complex, inequitable and inefficient.” The proposal would be more transparent and provide more flexibility to local school districts to decide how to spend their money, according to the report.

However, while high numbers of disadvantaged students would earn districts more state funding, there would be no requirement for schools to spend that additional money on services for those students, the report said.

“Specific activities and student groups that have traditionally been high priorities for the Legislature also no longer would be assured funding under the governor’s plan,” the report said.

Photo: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor at a news conference last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Twitter: @chrismegerian

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