Thursday, July 07, 2011

Crazy Education Budgeting

Two articles in the major Sacramento newspaper show how political education funding is, even to the point of madness. Here's some info from the first:
A budget-related bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday has sparked a division within the education community as school districts push to reverse new protections for teachers.

Lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 114 in the final 45 minutes of the legislative session Tuesday night. The bill protects teachers from further layoffs in the new fiscal year.

It also requires districts to ignore the possibility they could lose $1.5 billion in classroom funding in December as well as $248 million in school bus money.

Teachers say those protections ensure stability through the school year. District officials say those requirements restrict their ability to plan for a midyear reduction. They are also frustrated by the suspension of requirements that districts show how they balance their budgets for three years.
Here's the second:
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg defended a last-minute budget bill protecting teachers from further layoffs and reducing district authority, saying that Democrats preserved class sizes and education jobs.

The proposal was backed by the California Teachers Association, which has significant budget influence. About two-fifths of the state's general fund must flow to K-12 schools and community colleges, and the union has been a reliable Democratic contributor.

"We were intentional," Steinberg said during a meeting with The Bee Capitol Bureau. "We do not want to create a situation where more teachers and classified employees lose their jobs. And we did not want to see class sizes increase."

Assembly Bill 114 has drawn fire from school fiscal officials because it reduces their authority, especially if the state imposes a midyear $1.5 billion classroom reduction should tax dollars fall short.
So what do these articles tell us? They tell us that the Democrats (without a single Republican vote) smooched the butt of the CTA and passed a budget that forbids school districts to cut personnel, even if projected tax revenues don't materialize and the state has to cut education funding mid-year. Districts obviously don't like this--what, pray tell, are they going to cut, air conditioning???

Anyway, here's the most honest statement coming from downtown:
Steinberg acknowledged that Democrats rushed Assembly Bill 114 through the Legislature, though he said the haste was necessary to preserve the majority-vote budget deal before it could unravel.
As I said in a previous post, they're idiots.

Update, July 9, 2011: Even the Chronicle looks down its nose at this bill:
School officials across the state are frustrated and puzzled by a bill crafted in private and passed in the final hour of the Legislature's budget debate that strips districts of their ability to lay off teachers and forces them to spend money they might want to save for a rainy day.

AB114, signed into law June 30, appears to be an 11th-hour nod to the teachers union to preserve teacher jobs, fiscal experts said.

"It was pure political juice at one hour before the budget is voted on that all this stuff is stuffed in there," said Ron Bennett, president and CEO of School Services of California, an education financial consultant. "If that is the only way you can pass that ... we think that's a pretty good indication that it's not great public policy right off the top."


Anonymous said...

The obvious thing for a principal to do is to budget assuming that the cuts will occur, and staff at that level. If the cuts *DON'T* occur, you have some extra money (to spend or to roll over to the next year). If the cuts *DO* occur, you aren't scrambling because you already planned for them.

What this would mean, though, is that you lay off the teachers before the school year begins.

Is this not possible?

If it is possible, why won't it happen?

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

In my district, at least, principals don't get any say on staffing levels--that's all decided by the district.

Given what the law says, though--what are districts to cut if they have to cut something, and their biggest expense, staffing, is off the table?

Anonymous said...

Darren: "Given what the law says, though--what are districts to cut if they have to cut something, and their biggest expense, staffing, is off the table?"

Maybe the districts can just issue checks that bounce?

But I'd like to try again with my question.

My understanding is that part of the end of school ritual in California is lots of layoff notices to teachers. We do this because years ago California passed a law that required that teachers (and other employees? I don't know the details) be given 60 days notice before being laid off. Since the schools often got their budgets less than 60 days before the school year began, the layoffs went out early ... and the idea was that many/most of the teachers would be re-hired.

So, I'm assuming that we did the same thing this year (because of articles like this:

So, can't the districts just re-hire based on worst case assumptions about the budget? If they don't hire the teachers in the first place, they won't have to lay them off.

If they can't do this, why not?

[NOTE: I'm not arguing for or against such a strategy, just wondering if/why it isn't the logical result of the legislation in question.]

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

The problem is that when the mid-year budget comes out, if education is cut, districts won't be able to cut staff (consolidate classes, drop low-enrollment ones, etc). This isn't about March 15th layoff notices for the end of the school year, this is about tying district hands if mid-year cuts need to be made.

I guess it's like getting a pay cut at home, but not being allowed to change your food, gasoline, entertainment, or savings budgets.

Ellen K said...

At some point those checks will bounce. What will the unions do then? They will turn to and possibly on the politicians that led them down this path. Promises are nothing but empty words without action. If, in February or March, schools in California suddenly can't afford hot lunches or ESL or transportation, what gets cut? Federally mandated programs cannot be cut or district risk the wrath of the Feds. So that means that average kids in middle class schools will see their classes larger, their opportunities limited in order to continue serving an agenda that has raised unemployment once again. I hope that teachers find the CTA leaderships' homes and picket when this happens. And it's going to happen because while Obama and Pelosi may think in the back of their minds that the federal government can bail California out, I promise you that will not happen. There is no money. We are broke.