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Educators: We can't cut more

Governor hasn’t yet said that he definitely wants midyear slashes; schools say they’re maxed out.

November 01, 2008|By Zain Shauk

GLENDALE — In the wake of a meeting where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly told educators he may call for up to $4 billion in midyear budget cuts to education, state and local officials expressed concern about a crisis that may further impair an already struggling state education system.

In the private meeting, the governor told legislators Tuesday to brace for the midyear cuts, adding that he would make a push for a sales tax increase to help in closing the budget gap, according to Rick Pratt, assistant executive director for governmental relations at the California School Boards Assn., who was one of the education representatives at the meeting.

“He mentioned that the state right now is looking at possibly a $5-billion to $8-billion shortfall in general fund revenue,” Pratt said. The governor later said it could go as high as $20 billion by the end of next year, Pratt said.

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Burbank Unified School District Supt. Gregory Bowman said that because Schwarzenegger had not yet made a formal proposal for cuts to education, the district wasn’t aware of how specifically it might be affected, although he added that the situation could be dire.

“Parents of children in public schools should be greatly distressed and alarmed that these reductions are being called for at this time,” Bowman said. “Especially when we’re only two months into a budget that was signed by the Legislature and governor.”

That budget made up for some shortfalls in education funding by making unreasonable assumptions about future revenues from the state lottery, said Glendale Unified trustee Chuck Sambar, adding that the budget does not account for inflation, which has driven up costs for districts across the state that don’t have added funds to match the higher prices.

“We estimated our utilities to go up by $200,000. Now where does that come out of?” said Sambar, who is also president of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Assn., which launched a campaign Monday to urge representatives to oppose cuts to education.

The association, which includes representatives from 94 school districts and 1.4 million students, has lobbied the governor and Sacramento lawmakers about the difficulties schools could face with a midyear cut.

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