The following information has been reprinted from California State PTA’s December 5, 2008 Legislation Information Alert.
As a new legislative session begins this week, we are increasing our efforts to demand that our legislators act responsibly to reach a solution that does not make further devastating cuts to education and children’s programs.
The stakes could not be higher.
Legislators and the governor must work to address the state’s budget shortfall, which is projected to grow to $27 billion or more over the next 19 months.
Legislative Analyst’s Report
Proposed cuts would have a catastrophic effect
California’s total school funding could be cut by $8 billion in 2008-09 if lawmakers don’t vote for new revenues. For kindergarten through high school schools alone this would mean a cut of $7.2 billion.
These cuts are equivalent to:
- Shutting down every school across the state for 25 days,
- Increasing class sizes statewide by more than 50 percent,
- Reducing per-student spending by almost $1,200,
- Laying off 160,000 classroom teachers or 180,000 bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, maintenance workers, and other education support professionals,
- Cutting more than $31,500 per classroom,
- Cutting $12.4 million per school district (assuming 10,000 students in the school) or eliminating all music, art and career technical education
Our state already has some of the most overcrowded classrooms and the greatest shortages of librarians, counselors and other critical support staff in the nation. Even before this year’s most recent, devastating budget cuts, California already ranked 46th out of 50 states in per pupil funding, according to Education Week.
And many of these cuts would come in the middle of the school year when local school budgets have already been set.
PTA members across the state must get ready to raise your voices again! Thanks to your efforts, we were able to raise awareness about the impact of devastating cuts, and prevent even more harmful funding reductions last year. But the worsening budget situation will require even more effort this coming year. It’s very tough, given the state’s economic condition, but it would be shortsighted and even more harmful for legislators to undermine future generations by failing to enact responsible revenue increases.
Next week, PTA leaders will participate with Education Coalition partners in a series of media events in cities throughout the state. Your volunteer advocates in Sacramento will also be meeting with legislators. In the coming weeks, we will continue emailing you alerts asking you to take specific actions such as contacting your local legislators or participating in local events.
Key Points to Communicate
It’s important that we speak with a unified voice on behalf of all children. Some of the key points to communicate:
- Further cuts will have catastrophic consequences for California’s schools, and students.
- The time to raise revenues and invest in California’s future is now.
- It is beyond reckless to make billions more in cuts to schools in the middle of the school year. We shouldn’t turn back the clock on California’s students because of a budget mess they didn’t create.
- Our schools need stable, on-going revenues to ensure that students have the resources they need to succeed.
- Providing flexibility without adequate funding raises false hope that schools can do more with even fewer resources, while the real crisis facing our students is potentially billions more in cuts to classrooms.
- Our elected leaders need to be reminded of what hard-working Californians already know: devastating cuts to public education are undermining our state’s future. That’s why parents, teachers and other educators across California are united against further mid-year budget cuts.
- California already spends $1,900 less per student than the national average. The “Getting Down to Facts” studies from Stanford University show that California seriously underfunds its public schools and would need to spend 40 percent more to ensure that all students meet the state’s rigorous academic standards. The studies also show that other states like New York spend 75 percent more on students than California.
- California business leaders say the best way to improve our economy is to make sure we have a well-educated work force. The governor and lawmakers must make California’s students a top priority. Refusing to support solutions to raise revenues for schools shortchanges our students and California’s future.
Update on Recent Events and Activities in Sacramento.
New legislators sworn in
Earlier this week the State Senate and Assembly swore in members for the 2009-10 legislative session. There are 12 new senators – all of whom previously served in the Assembly. Of the 31 new Assembly members, three previously served in the Senate and 25 have no previous legislative experience.
The senate also has a new leader: Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) officially became Senate President Pro Tempore. He now joins Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill (R–Fresno), Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D–Los Angeles), and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) among the legislative leaders.
Governor calls for another special session
Soon after the swearing in, Governor Schwarzenegger called for a new special session of the legislature to address the budget. In a press conference, the Governor told legislators to get out of their “ideological sandboxes” and make decisions based on the “common good.”
During the special session called in November, legislators were unable to reach a solution. On November 25, proposals to raise $8.1 billion in new revenues and enact $8.1 billion in cuts failed to pass in the legislature. More than $4 billion in additional cuts to education were proposed, but did not become law because revenue increase proposals failed.
To receive this and other Legislation Information Alerts from the California State PTA, please send your name and e-mail address to Leginfo@capta.org.