Brown signs ed trailer bill

Says districts should act responsibly
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Gov. Jerry Brown last night signed an education trailer bill that critics say will limit school districts’ ability to accomplish what Brown said they should do: “take all reasonable steps to balance their budgets and maintain a positive cash flow.”

Brown signed AB 114, a 100-page trailer bill, despite a call by the California School Boards Association Thursday  to repeal two sections of the bill that “intrude on the ability of school boards to manage their own resources.” Both would limit the ability of school boards to act now to ward off the possibility of midyear budget cuts that the Legislature acknowledged would be necessary if revenues are more than $2 billion short. One provision will prevent districts from using July and August to make additional layoffs; the other requires districts to maintain programs and staffing levels “commensurate with” last year’s levels.

“The state should not be substituting its judgment for that of those who live in the communities affected, have fiduciary responsibility for the districts, and are held accountable for student outcomes,” CSBA President Martha Fluor said in a statement.

School Services of California Inc., consultants that advise many districts on budget issues, asked Brown to veto a third section, which will pare back for one year the power of county offices of education to closely monitor districts’ financial health by not requiring the submission of multi-year budget projections. In his letter to Brown, School Services CEO Ron Bennett called this provision “a road to disaster, especially if the state turns around and cuts funding for schools” under a series of “triggers” outlined in the state budget. In the worst-case scenario, AB 114 authorizes districts to lop off seven days in the school year between February and the end of school.

Brown did not explicitly address AB 114 criticisms, but in a message accompanying the signing, he wrote, “In fashioning their local budgets, school boards may nevertheless need to make reductions due to cost increases, loss of federal funds, enrollment declines or other factors. AB 114 does not interfere with local school board decisions.” The implication is that those districts that built in a reserve after Brown’s May budget revision would not have to restore programs that were cut if they can justify their decision based on their own circumstances and could make further cuts now – just not certificated teachers.

In addition, although county superintendents cannot require three-year budget projections, AB 114 does not prevent school districts from doing them and using those forecasts to budget cautiously.

In an email, Bennett called Brown’s response “very positive,” adding that School Services will be using the message “to argue that school boards have a lot more control than the unions think they have.”

The cuts mandated by the Legislature will be phased in based on revenues. If the state receives $2 billion or more of the $4 billion in question, K-12 will be spared any cuts. However, if less than $2 billion comes in, schools will lose school bus funds and would have to negotiate furlough days with their unions – as many as seven if none of the $4 billion arrives.

However, Sue Burr, newly appointed executive director of the State Board of Education, reaffirmed the Brown administration’s view that districts should be reasonably confident that K-12 schools will be protected. School boards may want to open negotiations now with unions to plan for the possibility of midyear cuts, but they should not overreact to fears of shortfalls. Since state revenue is already $1.3 billion above the May revision estimates, less than $1 billion more is needed to protect K-12.

Brown ended his message with the reminder: “Let us not forget that schools would have enjoyed billions more in state funding if Republicans in the Legislature had allowed the people of California to vote on tax extensions.”

Today those taxes – on personal income, sales of goods, and motor vehicles – end. Coincidental or not, if there is a surge in state revenues in coming months, you can bet that Republican supply siders will be crowing that Democrats can thank them for saving the schools.

24 Comments

  1. A flat budget for K-12 schools that have already absorbed BILLIONS and BILLIONS of cuts is nothing  for Republicans  to ” crow about “.
    Especially a budget based on smoke and mirrors that may require  a 7 day shortened calendar  at mid year.
    Lets just  hope the back room deals that led to AB 114 are based on agreements that will ultimately support this entire generation of students that the legislature seems hell bent on abandoning.

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  2. I’ll attempt my post again   – sorry.
    I have just read AB 114 and I don’t agree with Brown’s comments, or those of his executives on what it does. The language in AB 114 clearly suspends county superintendent authority over three year budgets, and it looks as if districts may not have to prepare that document for 2012 – 14 until the 2012 school year. If you read the language for furloughs, the hands of the California School Board members are absolutely tied when faced with local issues. If the revenues do not flow – and who knows if they will or not – then the charge of the school board members is to somehow make mid-year cuts when faced with the possibility/probability that the union will not accept furloughs. Since many school districts are opening negotiations in 2011 -2012 for teachers and classified, if they aren’t required to have their 2012 – 14 operating budgets reviewed how can they make fiscally responsible salary and benefits decisions? 
     
    I guess I don’t like budgets made out of money not in the bank!

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  3. It seems that the key question here is whether local school boards can afford the risk of losing a lawsuit or unfair labor practice charge if they reduce staff and then face a legal or unfair labor practice charge.  If a district lost such a challenge, reinstatement, back wages, and penalties are often the result.

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  4. Isn’t referendum voting and thus Prop 13 the primary culprit of California’s education funding disaster?

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  5. Alex – No, prop 13 is not the culprit of California’s education funding disaster. Education spending has increased by 30% since prop 13.  We spend 40-50% of the state budget on education.  That’s not a funding diaster… The problems arise in HOW we spend the money we do have. 

    The Governor’s budget once again constricts school districts ability to efficiently deliver a decent education to kids – all in order to protect union interests.  There are endless pages of law in the education code that are there to protect the adults in unions at the expense of kids.  This budget is just another brick in that giant wall.

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  6. Capital Reader:

    Come on, get with the program here. CA has the second highest cost-of-living of the fifty states. In dollars adjusted for the costof-living CA is funding its schools at 47th in the US.

    Highly unionized states are the highest performing, and generally highest spending, states in the US based on NAEP scores. The old “let’s bash the teachers unions” ploy is pretty tired. It doesn’t matter what percentage of a state budget you have if the budget itself is too small.

    CA already has the fewest teachers per student, the fewest administrators per student, fewest librarians, fewest counselors, etc., etc. Where are the unions supposed to go with further compromise? Teacher salaries (prior to the current round of cuts and unpaid furlough days) are, in cost-of-living weighted dollars (see the RAND Corp. analysis), the lowest of the industrialized states.

    Yes, Prop 13 created major budget problems that still cascade through the entire system.  Other states depend on property taxes as the most stable revenue stream. Prop 13 has always been a commercial property tax dodge.

    If it hasn’t been noticed CA can’t afford to support most of its major public services. The real problem is the CA is a very high cost state with slightly above the national average in per capita taxes paid. That is the real “structural deficit.” Of course the “per capita” masks the fact that the poor tend to pay a higher percentage of their incomes in fees/taxes than the wealthy. Ask Warren Buffett.

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  7.  In 30+ years of working in school finance policy — state & local, legislative, executive, partisan and non-partisan — I’ve never seen a piece of legislation more irresponsible and reprehensible than AB 114. To sneak this bill in at the last minute, under cover of night, with no debate, and no public notice of its existence is an outrage. I have to hand it to the CTA — they sure can pull the strings on their puppets.
    I was willing to give Jerry Brown the benefit of the doubt. I believed him when he said that he would only sign a no-gimmick budget – one that was genuinely balanced, not one that merely “kicked the can down the road.” He was blunt, telling the painful truth about the state’s fiscal situation and the harsh medicine we would have to swallow to fix it. I actually thought here was a man who finally who put principles before political expediency, one who would promote sound public policy that transcended ideology and special interests. Boy, was I wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!  Jerry Brown is a prostitute who sells himself to the highest bidders: the correctional officers union and the CTA.
    I suppose CTA leadership expects that AB 114 will force those deceitful school districts to show where they’re hiding all that “extra money.” Or, failing that, districts will have to fire all those do-nothing administrators.
    Here’s my prediction. With teacher layoffs “off the table,” districts will run out of cash midyear or sometime soon thereafter when the “trigger” is pulled — and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be – and school funding is cut $1.75 billion. Districts will try to borrow enough cash to get them through the rest of the fiscal year. Good luck finding investors to buy COPs that have no guaranteed source of repayment. Even if they can find buyers, districts will need to pay high interest rates to compensate for this increased risk.
    With no buyers for their COPs, districts will next turn to the state, which is responsible for keeping the doors open until the end of the school year (Butt v. Honig). It doesn’t GIVE the district money; it LOANS the district the money – which, of course, is exactly what has been done in every school district bankruptcy to date (Richmond, Oakland, etc.). For the next 30 YEARS, the district pays off the loan (which accumulates interest). All of this is money that could otherwise have been used for instruction or other purposes — including teacher positions.

    Not only that — the early warning & fiscal responsibility system created by AB 1200 (Eastin) in the wake of the Richmond bankruptcy – is effectively dismantled for the next three years. With no information on which districts are closest to financial meltdown, it will be virtually impossible for FCMAT to triage (and believe me, with hundreds of districts going under, triage is the appropriate word) in order to rescue those that can be rescued.

    Finally, to top it off, the school districts are turned over to state-appointed trustees; the school boards are stripped of all their power & become advisory only. (How the state is going to find hundreds of qualified trustees is a mystery.) There goes local control.

    So thanks CTA — you really know how to “do it for the kids.”

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  8. The reality is that “out year” projections are pretty meaningless when the state budget is uncertain, and its wastes district and COE time and energy discussing cuts that may or may not ever have to be made.  By the time mid-year cuts are a real possibility, districts will be starting to think about layoffs for the 12/13 year.
    Though this ties districts hands somewhat, I doubt many districts adopted budgets that counted on an August layoff window to deal with flat funding.  And if tying district hands makes it harder for the state to cut 12/13 funding due to the risk of districts going broke and needing to be bail-out, then I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
     

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  9. If this was a CTA move, then they totally sold out CSEA to do so… because in most districts that will be the only area left for cuts.
     
    Something to keep in mind is that these rules will also tie the hands of districts that are facing declining enrollment, and who may be seeing the double financial whammy of fewer dollars and fewer students.
     
    I would rather see the county offices keep their oversight and to see districts file qualified than to just eliminate the third year projection and pretend that all is well.

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  10. Gary – You need to stop obsessing over inputs and consider the outputs as well.  There is no proof that more money will the solve the problem.  There is no proof that smaller class sizes will help.  You have to look at results and see what works.  Washington DC spends more money than any other state per pupil yet still has the worst performing students.  California has only marginally improved its student performance since the inception of prop 98. 

    The simple fact is that education has become utterly centralized and school districts have become increasingly irrelevant.  When a school has zero ability to determine who they hire, let go or even reorganize staff (just as one example) it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, you are still going to end up with a dysfunctional system that does not serve kids.
    Perhaps, it is you who needs to get with the program and realize that yes, unions are interested in the adults who they represent and will do whatever it takes to protect them.
     
     

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  11. AB114 is a stroke of genius.  It is the surest way to get the public to pay more attention to school funding.  By making furlough days the only method by which school districts can face further cuts, it will effectively deprive voting parents of the real function of schools for most families – babysitting.
    If additional furlough days place enough of a burden on the state’s voting parents, maybe they will vote out the republicans who have steadfastly opposed the tax increases our state desperately needs.
    Our legislature has failed to increase taxes for the purpose of improving the educational programs which provide our youth with the best chance for a decent future.  Maybe public outcry from the loss of free babysitting will give legislators an incentive to raise taxes before parents replace them with new representatives who will represent the interests of families.
    If enough districts impose enough furlough days to remind parents of the value of schools, maybe folks will vote for legislators who will accept that higher taxes on the wealthy is the necessary price we must pay for the prosperity and security we all derive from having enough money to fund schools adequately.  Then we can get back to the secondary function of schools, educating children for the 21st century.

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    • Ariel: You are an optimist indeed. I didn’t hear much outcry from parents when districts dropped the minimum year from 180 to 175 days. (Some parents complained that the days weren’t tacked on to existing vacations, I hear.) And rising CST scores during the past few years, as noted in the Sacramento Bee today, mask the dangerous, long-term impact that severe cuts will have on our public schools – district and charter schools. It’s appalling that a minority of lawmakers would deny for this generation’s children the opportunities they had growing up in California 30, 40 years ago, when schools were more adequately funded.

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  12. John,
     
    ” It’s appalling that a minority of lawmakers would deny for this generation’s children the opportunities they had growing up in California 30, 40 years ago, when schools were more adequately funded.”
     
    I ran a short sanity check. In 1969-70 — your 40 years ago — California spent $867/student. That would be $5,451 in today’s dollars, accounting for California Consumer Price Index (CPI). In  1979-80 — your 30 years ago — we spent $2,268/student, or $7,217 in today’s California dollars.
     
    Last fully vetted data we have for actual per-student spending is from NCES for 2007-8 at $9,808, or $9,478 in California dollars. You recently cited $8,852, which sounds a bit low but, even with that we are spending anywhere from 20% to 60% more than those golden years from 30-40 years ago you so fondly recall. Is that really so “appalling”?
     
    The issue, once again, is not that we do not spend enough money on education. The issue is that most districts waste too much of it through abuse, misuse, and ineffective instruction.

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  13. Ze’ev,
    “The issue, once again, is not that we do not spend enough money on education. The issue is that most districts waste too much of it through abuse, misuse, and ineffective instruction.”
    What is your sanity check for that statement?

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  14. Moonbeam, You’re a real crack-up……..Heck yeah, let’s blame the Republicans……LOL…….
     
    It wouldn’t have anything to do with the State spending more on Welfare and Prisons than Education……
     
    It wouldn’t have anything to do with you and your Dem friends in the Legislature writing the Ed Code to protect unproductive and checked-out Teachers……..
     
    Face it Jerry, the Democrat Legislature and their Union Buddies are calling the shots, who’s kidding who here?
     
    Until this State starts putting kids first, they will continue to get a 3rd World Education, and we will bear the results of that in the generations to come……….
     
    So, you go ahead and point your political fingers around all you want……We know the truth…..

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  15. Paul,
     
    Sanity check? Let me try.
     
    Item. This morning’s Mercury News, front page of the local section: “For the second time in three years, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury has issues a biting report on the tiny Luther Burbank School District, which the jury alleges has wasted $900,000 on consultants and on buyouts of fired superintendents.”
     
    Item: Last year Palo Alto unified spend about half a million dollars to purchase new K-5 math textbooks, against a broad opposition from parents, who claimed the selected materials will need strong supplementation because they are deficient and  weak on basics. Nevertheless, Palo Alto went ahead to buy those materials. And then spent another $120,ooo just in the first year to support teachers and supplement that deficient program. Palo Alto will not go broke with this unnecessary extra cost, but consider poorer districts that need to spend this kind of extra money. Incidentally, we are talking here about probably the most popular, albeit woefully flawed, elementary math program in the country.
     
    Item: Inglewood Unified (Los Angeles County) elementary schools have 98-99% Latino and African-American students, with about 90% qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. Yet with only an average of $9000/student (which also includes  higher cost high schools), and with this demographics, the API of many is in excess of 800.
     
    Item: Aspire Charter Academy in East Palo Alto has over 98% minority and over 92% FRPL students, with API of 882. Stanford New Charter in East Palo Alto, with similar demographics, has an API of 620. Incidentally, Stanford has less than 15 students for every teacher, while Aspire has 20.
     
    What all these demonstrate that with judicious selection of instructional materials and teaching strategies, and with careful shepherding of finances, our per-student spending is generally adequate. Incidentally, with trivial exceptions like Luxemburg and Switzerland, the United States spends more on K-12 education in purchasing-power-adjusted dollars, than any industrialized country in the world. For elementary grades the OECD average is at $6756, and for 6-12 at $8153.
     
    I hope this is sufficient, as sanity check goes.

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  16. Re: Ze’ev’s per pupil spending comparison:
     
    It’s important to remember that before the mid 1970′s, there was no obligation to educate disabled students, and many were not part of the school system. In addition, this was a way that students with various behavioral issues ended up outside the system.
     
    I was a student then, and it was very much a sink-or-swim time. Kids who were naturally inclined to read and learn and do well did okay, but a lot more kids were ‘left behind,’ especially if they were the wrong ethnicity. Certainly plenty of kids got through high school with substandard reading and math skills (but they could still get decent jobs as laborers). Regardless of what some people might say, there has never been some past ‘golden age’ of education for poor or minority students, not in California and not in the nation.
     
    AP classes were pretty new in the 1980s, and my high school offered 4 (history, biology, calculus, and English). My elementary experience had barely any science – there is no way I could have done well on the current 5th grade STAR science test at that time – and I have a STEM degree.
     
    And finally, the CPI is not necessarily reflective of the costs schools face. Schools rarely buy washing machines, but they buy a lot of labor and a lot of health insurance. Health insurance – which has increased by a factor of 7 or so since 1990 – is not in the CPI, and California housing, which is a substantial driver of California labor costs – is not in there either. Textbooks and fuel are far above CPI as well, and schools have new expenses for computers and IT. In general, labor costs for teachers are hardly excessive for workers of similar training living in our high-cost state.

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  17. By the way, on international spending comparisons, Bruce Baker at School Finance 101 has written a pretty good discussion about why you can’t compare nations directly:
    http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/smart-guy-gates-makes-my-list-of-dumbest-stuff-ive-ever-read/
    Basically, the accounting is different. Our schools may be spending 15%-20% of their budget on health insurance – in some countries this is accounted not to schools but to a national health plan. Sports and extracurricular activities may be spent as community services. Countries without 25% of their kids living in poverty may not have to account money to funds for clothing and backpacks.
     
    He and some colleagues are working on teasing out all those variables to try to get better cross-country comparisons.
     
    That link also discusses shortcomings with using the CPI as a scale to compare education spending today and in the past.

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  18. el,
     
    You are grasping at straws here, and all you mention, while true, does not change the overall picture. Specifically, even using the “Comparable Wage Index,” beloved by the unions because it overstresses California’s high labor costs (it assumes 100% of education costs are professional, college-trained, labor), represents only additional 4%-5% on top of the California CPI. Special ed expenditures were about 4% 30-40 years ago, now they account for about 17% of ed spending in California. AP classes have nothing to do with the financial picture, as their cost is no different from any other class, and in California it is the students that pay for the AP exams. Not that they would make a huge difference in the overall financial picture anyway.
     
    Please remember I am simply responding to John’s argument that today’s funding is “appalling” as compared to his recollection of the good old days. We are spending today, even with the cuts, at least  somewhat more relative to the 1979-80 base, or much more relative to the 1969-70 base. And more than the OECD average. Whatever else, “appalling” is not the proper adjective here.

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  19. 5% per year, compounded over 30 years, is quite a large multiplier. Or is that not what you meant?

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  20. No, it is not. Calif. today (2010) is about 6% over US CPI since 30-40 years ago (less than .2% difference whether 1969 or 1979 is the base). Calif. CWI is currently about 9% over US CWI. So it is a simple ~3% (not even 4%-5% as I eyeballed) adjustment on top of the 6% Calif. CPI adjustment I already applied previously. It’s not as if you could bank those dollars 40 years ago at 5%. Wouldn’t that be nice? Smile.

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  21. CPI, however, does not include purchased housing, nor does it include health insurance, which are two of the biggest expenses for a family in California. (CPI has an element of rent and of medical care that vastly understates the situation for most families.)
     
    I wrote a comment earlier that has a link in it about comparing costs in time and across nations,  but unfortunately comments with hyperlinks await moderation.
     
    So, I’ll go with mere anecdotes. Back in the 1970s, my mother purchased a modest tract home that cost 1 1/2 times her teaching salary. Today, that house costs ~7 times the median teacher salary in that district. A single teacher couldn’t afford the mortgage on it even if she spent 100% of her after tax income on housing.

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  22. @el,
     
    All you can come back with is engendering FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt, for those unfamiliar with hi-tech speak). However you cut it,  California current expenditures per student in real dollars are above 1969-70 and 1979–80 era. And above OECD average *today*. That’s not news to *anyone* who has observed education for more than a millisecond.
     
    As to anecdotes, does your mother happen to live in Stockton or Fresno? I realize that it may be hard to remember, but not all of California lives in the Bay Area or in San Diego.

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  23. Ze’ev,
    So if good school management is such a critical difference, why the paucity of same?  Community indifference?  We don’t pay school management enough to attract more talent?  Something else?

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