Gov. Jerry Brown wants to overhaul the way California's public schools are funded, sending more money to districts that serve poor students and eliminating mandates to spend billions of dollars on specific programs -- even possibly eliminating the state's popular class-size reduction initiative.
Although the governor was coy in a recent interview about details of his proposal, administration documents indicate the governor is interested in eliminating caps on class sizes in early grades as part of the funding change.
According to documents from Brown education advisors Sue Burr and Nick Schweizer that were given to dozens of education leaders in November, the governor wants a plan that "collapses all existing state categorical funding, with the exception of special education, into … one flexible revenue stream for schools."
In an interview last month, Brown said he had not yet decided whether to seek elimination of the class-size reduction program. The limit of 20 students per class in Kindergarten through 3rd grade has been eased in recent years to help districts cope with state budget cuts.
Gov. Jerry Brown will push this year to upend the way schools are funded in California, hoping to shift more money to poorer districts and end requirements that billions of dollars be spent on particular programs.
Brown said he wants more of the state's dollars to benefit low-income and non-English-speaking students, who typically are more expensive to educate.
"The reality is, in some places students don't enjoy the same opportunities that people have in other places," the governor said in an interview. "This is a way to balance some of life's chances."
He would also scale back — and possibly eliminate — dozens of rules that districts must abide by to receive billions in state dollars. Some of those requirements, such as a mandate to limit class size, have been suspended amid Sacramento's recurrent budget problems but are set to resume by 2015.
California’s Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the last election—voter-approved tax increases and a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy that can no longer block tax hikes.
Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing and spending spree or will some semblance of a “moderate” Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it’s hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state’s public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.
Given that backdrop, I offer some subdued predictions for the New Year.
Prediction 1: Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislative leadership will continue to argue that the state government is on a bare-bones diet, and therefore continue to look for additional revenue to fund it regardless of mounting evidence of waste and excess.
"Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers struck an upbeat tone in recent weeks as they enjoyed their most positive budget outlook since the economic downturn.
Whether that mood survives the winter depends on Washington.
State budget experts say the biggest immediate threat to California finances is a recession triggered by automatic federal cuts and tax hikes, absent a political deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
The state's biggest federal program, Medi-Cal, is spared from automatic cuts. But a new recession could threaten the state tax revenue that serves as the lifeblood for California government."
"Gov. Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature settled on a hastily revised state budget last June – after Brown had vetoed legislators' first version – and pronounced it to be balanced and timely.
"My colleagues and I have voted on a responsible budget," Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, told constituents in a newsletter, adding, "While we have projected additional revenues, we have also identified further tough cuts if these revenues are not realized. We are charged with the responsibility to pass a balanced budget on time. Democratic lawmakers have done so."
Dickinson wasn't alone in crowing to constituents about the budget. But it wasn't on time, nor was it balanced, as Capitol insiders suspected then and we know for certain seven months later.
The quickly revised budget hinged on a sudden, even miraculous, projection by Brown's bean counters that the state would receive another $4 billion in revenue. But in December, they acknowledged that more than half of the windfall won't show up, thus triggering some spending cuts, although not enough to offset the missing income.
If anything, the situation has deteriorated."
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