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Education Coalition Stresses Need for New Revenues, Opposes Weighted Pupil Funding Formula

March 22, 2012

The Education Coalition held a press briefing March 13 to outline its position on the state budget, highlighting the harm of March 15 layoff notices to educators, and explaining why revenues must be part of California’s budget solution.

At the press briefing, Executive Director Bob Wells of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) pointed out that California ranks at the bottom nationally in number of teachers, administrators, librarians and counselors per student, far behind other populous states such as New York, Florida and Texas.

“More revenues are needed for schools if we are not to fall to the absolute bottom of the list in every single category of adults who are helping our children learn,” Wells said. “We have fewer adults per student than more than 45 other states. California has set some of the highest standards for students in the nation, yet we have fewer people working in our schools to help students meet the expectations we have set for them.”

The Education Coalition’s budget position includes the following:

Funding overview

In the last four years, funding for our schools has been cut by more than $20 billion. We recognize the substantial budget problem facing the governor and the Legislature to close the 2012-13 budget deficit estimated at $9.2 billion.

While we have concerns on the budget proposal, we appreciate the governor and Legislature’s willingness to incorporate changes urged by the Education Coalition, including his recent signing of SB 81, which replaced the current year school transportation cut with an across-the-board reduction to the revenue limit.

We look forward to continued discussions on the coalition’s concerns during budget deliberations.

Revenues

It is clear that the state has a revenue problem stemming from a major economic recession. The Education Coalition believes that this year marks a key turning point, where Californians must decide whether to continue the devastating cuts to our education system and other vital state programs, or to rebuild the infrastructure that helped us become the eighth largest economy in the world.

We believe that some form of revenue enhancement must be passed to re-invest in our public schools and to return our economy and our schools to national prominence. Without significant new revenues, our schools and students will suffer from a cut that would be equivalent to three weeks of instruction. This is simply unacceptable.

It is important to understand that the Education Coalition, representing parents, teachers, classified staff, administrators and other school employees, is willing to fight for more revenues to prevent any further cuts. Substantial new revenues are essential to begin restoring these cuts to our schools.

In the last four years, funding for schools has been cut by more than $20 billion. California continues to be the eighth largest economy in the world, and our academic standards are among the most rigorous in the country, but our investment in education is among the lowest compared to other states. New revenues are needed to replenish K-14 school funding.

No further cuts

The budget proposes cuts to K-12 education in 2012-13. It is important that there be no further cuts to the K-12 education budget and programs. This is particularly critical if the tax initiatives pass. Preserving the remaining resources to education will be essential for districts to survive. Consistent with this concern, the reduction in the school transportation program needs to be restored.

Integrity of Prop. 98

We urge protecting the integrity of the Proposition 98 guarantee. For example, inclusion of $2.4 billion of debt service payments in the Prop. 98 guarantee is both inappropriate and unconstitutional. Debt service payments are made by the state and do not flow through local districts as required by Prop. 98.

Legislative deliberation

Policy changes proposed in the budget should get a full policy hearing.

There are a number of proposals in the budget that represent major policy changes to how education and programs will operate in the 2012-13 year and beyond. Such proposals include:

  1. A weighted student formula to finance the K-12 system.
  2. Changing the mandates from a reimbursement to an incentive program.
  3. Implementation of transitional kindergarten.

These issues require legislative deliberation through the policymaking committees of the Legislature. There should be an opportunity for all concerned interests to both hear and respond to the rationale for the policy changes being proposed.

Trigger reductions

The Education Coalition has two concerns with regard to the trigger:

  1. Trigger reductions are disproportionate to K-14 education. We oppose the disproportionate $4.8 billion in trigger reductions to K-14 education should the governor’s proposed tax initiative fail. As noted by the Legislative Analyst, “Proposition 98 funding for schools and community colleges would bear the brunt of such reductions: $4.8 billion (90 percent) of the $5.4 billion in total trigger cuts.”

    Moreover, the trigger reductions would go back to the pattern of disproportionate cuts to education that have devastated services to schoolchildren since the budget crisis began.

  2. Trigger reductions should not be acceptable practice. In addition, we are concerned that for the second year in a row, the budget contains essentially two budgets for school districts, opening the door for mid-year cuts well into the middle of the fiscal year. This makes it difficult for districts to effectively plan their resource mix for the school year.

    Specifically, it will force districts to adopt their budgets based on the lower funding levels (i.e. the triggers are pulled) rather than on the assumption the governor’s tax initiative passes. Trigger cuts should not be continued as a standard budgeting practice.

Education Coalition opposes move to weighted pupil formula

In his 2012-13 budget for K-12 education, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a weighted pupil formula that would radically change the way schools are funded in California. The Education Coalition has announced its opposition to the proposal.

While the proposal is designed to achieve a number of laudable goals, it would make permanent the $20 billion in cuts schools have endured over the past four years, according to the coalition.

During a press briefing, ACSA Executive Director Bob Wells indicated some of the coalition’s other objections to the proposed funding formula.

“This proposal would disadvantage some districts to help others,” Wells said. “Taking money from some districts to help others is not the right way to go.”

The Education Coalition outlined specific problems with the proposal, including:

  1. This is the worst possible time to ask school districts to consider changes to the school funding formula. Any proposal to consolidate existing programs without fully funding them is simply a redirection of resources at the lowest funding point in the last decade.
  2. Districts are already facing a potential cut of $450 per student if a temporary tax measure is rejected by voters. This new reduction would be in addition to the $20 billion in cuts to public schools over the past four years.
  3. Without additional revenues and a “hold harmless” provision, the proposal to consolidate categoricals would result in some districts receiving additional funds at the expense of others, essentially “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Even with new revenues and a one-year hold harmless, these adjustments are insufficient to make a weighted pupil formula work effectively for all districts.
  4. As noted in the Education Coalition’s position paper on the budget, policy proposals in the budget should get a full policy hearing. A public hearing gives an opportunity for all concerned interests to hear and respond to the rationale for the policy changes being proposed.
  5. There should be detailed analysis provided to the public on the impact of these proposals at the district, school and student level. It should reflect the impact on districts with and without the passing of a statewide tax revenue initiative.

Source:  Association of California School Administrators