Educators Rally to Condemn Looming Cuts;
By Nick Wilson, December 5, 2002 09:34 AM
Gov. Davis to Announce Key Reductions Friday
SAN FRANCISCO --- Declaring that California's schoolchildren should not be made to bear the brunt of the state's multibillion dollar budget deficit, administrators, teachers and parents from numerous state unified school districts rallied here today against cuts in education.
"Any cuts to the current education [budget] will be devastating," said Sherrie Rosenberg, president of the San Franciso Parents/Teachers Association, who echoed the protestors' charges outside the Moscone Center today that the schools are already struggling and that the state's future depends on bright students.
Gov. Gray Davis is scheduled to make his recommendations for budget cuts to state legislators on Friday. State officials say the deficit is now a combined $21 billion for the current fiscal year and next, and Gov. Davis said he believes the figure may even be higher. Education expenses account for nearly half of the state's annual budget.
"The governor will recommend budget reductions of $10 billion tomorrow across the spectrum, but he hasn't specifically said where those changes will happen," said Hilary McLean, spokesperson for the governor.
The state has reported a $1.9 billion over-appropriation of school funding, claiming it is well above the legal funding requirements of Proposition 98. The education advocates fear this is the amount of funding to be cut from schools, though Gov. Davis' office says no specific figures have been determined.
The coalition of education advocates claimed the state has cut school spending by $3.1 billion over the past year. The total K-12 school budget is $55.7 billion.
"It's ridiculous to make budget cuts in the middle of the school year," said Scott Plotkin, executive director of California School Boards Association. "The money has all been paid for this year."
Caprice Young, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said the state has already talked about cutting counselors and books in schools as a way to cut corners in the slow economy.
"The state needs to correct health care and worker's compensation laws to fix its problems, not the schools," said Young.
Gov. Davis has increased education spending by 33 percent since he took office in 1998, his aides said. They say that despite tough economic times, his commitment to education remains strong. "Education is the governor's top priority," McLean said. "It's the reason he ran for office."
McLean pointed out that test scores have risen four years in a row under Davis' leadership.
"You're going to see that Governor Davis will try his darndest to protect California schools as best as he can," she said.
The governor is expected to make his budget reduction announcement between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow, said Jordan Rasmussen, Davis' assistant press secretary.