If you think California’s budget crisis has somehow been resolved for this year just because there haven’t been many stories about it in the news media lately, think again.
And here’s the really bad part: those programs that weren’t axed in this year’s proposed budget for San Diego’s schools, will most likely be eliminated next year as the State careens towards a funding cliff caused by the cessation of stimulus funding. For San Diego Unified, that’s another $50 million whack that’s just around the corner.
The point of all this is to say, that for better or worse, the budget crisis is still far from resolved. The School Board has made a serious attempt at painting a picture of what things could look like next year. A lot of things can and will change over the next few months as financial data from the fourth quarter of 2009 becomes available to analysts and the Legislature begins their deliberations on the subject. It’s possible that school districts around California may not know their actual funding levels until just weeks before the next school year begins.
The fact is that the State still needs to adopt a budget for the coming year, something that will take place over the next 120 days or so. All the discussion about the 2010/2011 budget that you might have noticed over the winter months was just reaction to the Governor’s proposals for next year’s state revenues and spending. The tough part of the deal, actually enacting a budget starts in about two weeks.
At the core of the budget decision making process are two arguments.
The first holds that the State is facing a spending crisis brought on by a decline in revenues. At the hub of this decline are declines in real estate values and consumer spending. The proposed solutions to the budget problems bandied about by proponents of this point of view are slashing spending and decreasing taxation (on private enterprise, mostly) in the state.
The second argument holds that the state is facing a revenue crisis brought on by years of tinkering by well-meaning ballot and legislative initiatives. These moves have largely changed California’s revenue collections from a system of progressive taxation (meaning that those with more pay more) to a much more regressive system, meaning that the State is obliged to look at revenue collections that impact working and middle class families.
Neither side holds enough sway over the legislature to actually cross the thresh hold of votes required to enact meaningful legislation. And this means that each year’s budget process gets mired down into a series of comprises designed to break the gridlock that please no one. The only winners here are the entities with enough lobbying and campaign funding mojo to insert language that protects their interests, no matter what budget is passed.
So, when it comes to funding for education, looking towards the State legislature to restore or protect funding is no simple matter. Politicians on both sides of the political aisle, while decreeing their “support” for education, are quick to point out the decline in revenues that California is experiencing as a result of the recession. Some legislators claim that providing additional revenues in the form of tax increases or additional fees will hurt job creation. Others are too busy collecting campaign donations from special interest groups with other priorities. (The campaign donation cycle during the budget negotiating process is simply disgusting: it’s like many of our elected representative set up–figuratively speaking–cash registers outside their offices during June and July.)
When it’s all said and done, local school boards will have no choice but to play the hand that’s been dealt them by the State of California.
Those who want to save public education funding do have a rather unique opportunity to influence the legislative process this year. This year there is a real opportunity to make parents voices heard. The antidote to lobbyists influence is voter outrage. Politicians, after all, do understand survival.
It just so happens that the Speaker of the California Assembly has scheduled a hearing in San Diego to get citizen input on the budget process for May8th. It also just happens that there is a protest rally to “Stop the Cuts to Education” planned for May 8th (Saturday).
And guess where both are scheduled to take place? Balboa Park! (This is an OBRag exclusive, by the way.)
If there was ever an opportunity to stage a protest where there might be an immediate impact, this has to be it. So take ONE MORNING out of your life:
No More Cuts Rally
Saturday, May 8th, Balboa Park, 10 am.
www.rallyforschools.com facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=259152683283&index=1