Print this Article

Budget Tracker Says Education Gets the Short End of the Stick – and He Has Numbers That Back Up His Case

By Jeff Hudson - June 24, 2010

Michael Hulsizer, a longtime representative of the Kern County Office of Education in Sacramento, is personally convinced that K-14 education has been getting the short end of the stick from California’s governors and legislators for years.

Hulsizer has burrowed through budgets past and present, and compiled statistics that support his assertion.

During the last few weeks, Hulsizer has been quietly circulating a three-page PowerPoint, based on his own research, that indicates state spending on K-14 education has gone up far less than other areas of the state budget – under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Hulsizer told EdBrief this week that he started compiling numbers to back up his argument as far back as 2005. “That was when Proposition 76 (one of a package of initiatives pushed by Gov. Schwarzenegger) was on the ballot.  And a central point to that campaign was an attack on Proposition 98 (which establishes a minimum level of funding for education as ‘autopilot spending.’ That’s what spurred me to do the research. I knew intuitively that Proposition 98 actually adjusted depending on economic circumstances, and was not ‘autopilot spending.’”

Hulsizer has tracked spending on various sectors by state government in the years between 2005 and 2010.

“And when I went back and did the research it was clear,” Hulsizer said. “Not only was Proposition not an ‘autopilot,’ we (education) were actually the best thing the Governor and the Legislature had going to reduce spending in midyear. They were adjusting K-14 spending more effectively and with more flexibility than any other budget sector.”

Hulsizer argues that from 2004-2005 through 2010-2011, K-14 (Proposition 98) expenditures increased by only three percent, while General Fund Revenues increased by 18.3 percent, and Non K-14 (General Fund) Expenditures increased by 10.4 percent.

He also worked his way back through the early 2000s into the late 1990s – a period of years when a Democrat (rather than a Republican) was Governor, and the economy was expanding (rather than mired in a deep recession.”

“I found that in good years, expenditures would be added to Proposition 98 – but usually, they were really questionable as education expenses,” Hulsizer said. “The best example would be license exempt child care, which in many cases is unlicensed relatives and friends who were paid with education dollars to provide child care. They used Proposition 98 money to fund it.”

“In good years, when state revenues exceeded the COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment), and growth (in Proposition 98 funding) was required under the state constitution, then historically they have added childcare into Proposition 98 funding.”

Hulsizer also ran a comparison of Major General Fund Expenditure Areas from 1998 through 2010, and found that K-14 education expenditures had lagged behind other categories over that twelve year period.  Categories like Corrections, as well as Business, Transportation and Housing, saw much bigger increases in percentage terms.

“They’ve been manipulating Proposition 98 in both good years and bad years,” Hulsizer said. “That’s really how they’ve done it. And the policy implication has been pretty clear – education is not a priority. And the (current) Governor is not the only one vulnerable to that charge. The legislature has participated in this as well, particularly on the child care side.”

Hulsizer’s charts are reproduced here.

Editor's Note:   Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.