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New state budget plan ‘better'

• Proposal gives $200 million more to public schools

Posted: May 16, 2008 1:54 a.m.
Updated: July 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted his revised 2008-09 budget plan to the legislature Wednesday, with the new proposal not suspending Proposition 98, but at the same time not providing education with all the funding needed.

"It's better news than January, and we need to acknowledge that, but it's just the governor's proposal," said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger. "We're still just caught in the middle waiting to find out what our assumptions should be."

California Proposition 98 requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education. Also called the Classroom Instructional Improvement and Accountability Act, it guarantees an annual increase in education in the California budget.

The governor's revised budget increases funding to K-14 education over the current year budget by almost $200 million.

"There's still no cost of living adjustment, and just like everyone else, we've got gas, food and other expenses," Winger said. "(Schwarzenegger) also maintained the cuts to our categorical programs, so he's still talking about cutting 6 1/2 percent of our categorical budget."

The governor's plan calls for the modernization of the state lottery to boost performance and returns on that asset.

With the modernization, the state should be able to raise cash up front by selling future lottery revenues.

"I realize the governor has a lot of tough decisions to make, and I commend him for taking the difficult but necessary step of recognizing that we need to raise more revenue," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement. "I am concerned, however, about a proposal that relies so heavily on the lottery alone to fund schools.

This scheme does not address the long-term funding needs of our schools. Instead it gambles on our students' future by providing one-time funds for schools with a multi-year repayment plan."

The William S. Hart Union High School District, Santa Clarita's largest school district, cut $10.3 million from its budget in March to accommodate the governor's proposed cuts to education funding.

Administrators at the Hart district did not want to comment on the governor's revised budget until they had studied all the complexities. Superintendent Jaime Castellanos and Chief Financial Officer Sue Guthrie plan to attend a budget meeting in Santa Barbara Tuesday to go over the details.

The Newhall School District cut around $2.5 million from its budget, laying off about six classified personnel and reducing the hours of others.

"This is still a pretty hard hit on education, even though what (the governor) is proposing now is a better situation," Winger said.


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