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State schools chief says budget proposal harmful to students

July 7, 2009 | 12:03 pm


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said this morning that meddling with voter-approved funding guarantees for schools would cause “severe and long-lasting harm to both our students and our schools.”

The comments come in response to a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to suspend the budgeting formula as part of a plan to wipe out California’s $26.3-billion deficit. Calling the proposal “short-sighted” and “irresponsible,” O’Connell said at a morning press conference that schools were being “made the scapegoat for the budget crisis.”

“Enough is enough,” he said, citing reductions to school funding made in recent months as the state’s revenues have plummeted.

The Democratic leaders of the Legislature have said they oppose suspending the Proposition 98 funding guarantees for K-12 education, the largest spending item in California’s budget. The powerful education lobby is gearing up to oppose the suspension as well.

On Monday, members of the California Teachers Assn. delivered 10,000 protest postcards to Schwarzenegger’s San Diego office. Rick Pratt, assistant executive director of California School Boards Assn., joined O’Connell at this morning’s press conference. He blamed Sacramento officials for passing the state’s budget problems to schoolchildren.

 “In trying to solve the state’s fiscal deficit,” Pratt said, “we’re creating learning deficits in our kids.”

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

Photo: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell speaks to a crowd in May. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times