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Rallying for school funds

Educators, parents protest proposed budget cuts by the state, citing children as custodians of future economy.

February 11, 2009|By Zain Shauk

NORTH GLENDALE — State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell rallied with parents and educators at Glenoaks Elementary School on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to make education a priority and to prevent midyear budget cuts to schools.

Speakers at the rally, which included California PTA President Pam Brady and Glendale Unified School District officials, urged parents, students and teachers to implore their local representatives to help keep California from worsening its current ranking in per-pupil funding for education, they said.

“We cannot afford to move backward in education funding,” Brady said. “If we do, we put an entire generation of children at risk, and that threatens our future workforce and economy.”

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California, now ranked 47th, could become the worst of all 50 states in per-pupil funding if the cuts included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most recent budget proposal are made, O’Connell said.

Schwarzenegger’s proposal would reduce the funding guaranteed to schools in accordance with the state’s falling revenues, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the State Department of Finance.

About 40% of California’s general fund is constitutionally guaranteed for education, but because of the state’s budget shortfall, it has far fewer resources than originally projected, prompting the department to adjust the minimum guarantee from the originally estimated $58.1 billion for this academic year to $51.5 billion, Palmer said.

But Schwarzenegger’s plan would still give schools the full $58.1 billion for the current year by reallocating funds from other state programs and through flexibility measures that would allow educators to use money currently restricted for textbooks or maintenance programs to help pay for any cash shortages, Palmer said.

Although the minimum amount guaranteed to schools could grow in the future, because of increases in state revenue, an adjusted guarantee this year would result in reductions that could force educators to make difficult decisions, like reallocating money from supplemental programs or laying off workers to cover deficits, O’Connell said.

The cuts could be devastating for California schools, including the Glendale Unified School District’s, which could face up to $20 million in cuts over the next two years, Supt. Michael Escalante told the crowd.

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