Another cut to education
12/15/2011 - This is an editorial written by Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D., Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools.
This week Governor Brown enacted mid-year cuts to K-12 education totaling about $45 per student. While this may not seem like much, this mid-year action is in addition to the $18 billion in reductions made to the K-12 budget since 2007. What this means is that per-child education spending in California has dropped by as much as $1,000 since 2008. That’s an astounding amount.
The Governor’s Office has also told schools to expect a January announcement of additional cuts for the 2012-13 school year.
But the cuts are only part of the story. Schools have also been subject to “delayed payments” from the state. This means that school districts are receiving only 60 percent of every dollar that they’re owed.
This delayed payment system started in 2007 and will continue through 2016. Should any district experience a cash shortfall because of delayed payments, it is forced to borrow. School districts across California are taking out loans, and paying interest, because the state can’t cover its bills.
Several local school districts have turned to my office for help meeting their cash flow demands. Loans of Sonoma County Office of Education funds have been arranged to ensure that these districts make payroll through the end of the fiscal year.
While a few Sonoma County school districts are struggling financially, most districts identified and made sufficient reductions when they developed their 2011-12 budgets, so they’re able to handle the mid-year cut without laying off staff or making other major operational changes. I am advising all districts to keep the current reductions in place through the next budget cycle in anticipation of further state cuts for 2012-13.
Local school boards have had to make tough and unpopular decisions in response to economic conditions they didn’t create. They are to be commended for staying focused and maintaining their commitment to quality educational programs for their communities.
Teachers, administrators, and classified staff have all experienced pay reductions due to furlough days and shortened school years. Still, they are providing positive learning environments in our schools and giving students the high-quality education they deserve.
In the next few months, there will be a statewide ballot initiative to restore some of the cuts and eliminate some of the delayed payments to schools. I encourage Sonoma County residents to follow these efforts and support the initiative to restore school funding in California. This is essential to our goal of ensuring that every Sonoma County student has the opportunity to succeed.