Thursday, May 19, 2005

575 Teachers of the Year and other News from California's Education Budget Front

We are a long way from common ground on education reform in California.

The article referenced below sums up why science and math majors and other high-quality teaching prospects will continue to avoid/flee the teaching profession.

"At Lucia Mar, 575 Teachers of the Year"

Teachers' union decides not to pick a single winner this year to protest Schwarzenegger's merit pay proposal.

The Teacher of the Year for the Lucia Mar Unified School District cannot be named within the space of this story.

"It's everyone," said Branden Leach, president of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association.

All 575 instructors in San Luis Obispo County's largest school district are winners, he said. "We all help children in our own special way."

In addition, On Friday the 13th (perhaps some significance here), Governor Schwarzenegger released his May revision of the California budget for 2005-2006. Education will continue to be the most contentious issue in the California budget negotiations between Republicans and Democrats.

I look at Schwarzenegger’s original education priorities including his proposed initiatives, the background on Proposition 98, and the ways that other cities and states are dealing with issues such as the local control of school funding and merit pay for teachers in this policy brief.

California’s Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) examines the May revision here.

The actual May revision of the education budget is here:

The LAO notes that Gov. Schwarzenegger continues to provide $50 billion for K12-funding for 2005-06. However, because of the lower current-year base, and lower year-to-year growth in General Fund revenues, the minimum guarantee fell just over $500 million compared to the January budget. Thus, the Governor's proposed spending level is now $509 million above the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee for 2005-06.

The changes in California's revenue and student population make the fight over school funding even more surreal. As Daniel Weintraub explains in his California Insider blog:

With new money flowing into the treasury, much of it from a tax amnesty program, the formulas everyone is fighting about have gone into overdrive. Remember the $2.3 billion that the teachers unions have been saying the schools were shorted by Schwarzenegger’s January budget? Using the same methodology, the governor’s aides acknowledge, that number would now be $3.2 billion. That’s what they say would be required by a strict reading of “the deal” that Schwarzenegger and the education coalition agreed to a year ago. The number is derived by calculating what the Prop. 98 guarantee would have been if there had been no deal, and then subtracting $2 billion.

But of course, the governor doesn’t buy their methodology. He prefers to focus on what the law requires, not what he might have promised to the lobbyists. And up until today at least, his reading of the law has been in sync with key staff members in the Legislature, including budget aides to the Assembly Democrats.

Using that approach, the governor now says, he is actually proposing to give the schools more than Prop. 98 requires for this year and next. About $500 million more. That number, incidentally, is padded because of the bizarre accounting surrounding the receipt of nearly $4 billion in disputed tax payments, much of which will probably have to be refunded. $500 million more than required? Look for that number to appear soon in an ad near you.

The most significant changes in the May revision are the new categorical programs targeting low-performing schools for smaller class size and teacher recruitment and bonuses The May revision proposes using $252 million in one-time Proposition 98 settle-up funds on new K-12 program initiatives such as high school supplemental instruction for students at risk of failing the high school exit exam ($58 million), teacher recruitment and retention ($50 million), additional beginning teacher professional development ($30 million), career technical education ($30 million), and a fruits and vegetables breakfast program ($18 million).

While all these new education initiatives seem to have laudable goals, California’s education funding is already swamped with categorical funding streams that restrict more than thirty percent of education funding. As the LAO notes: “We are concerned that the revised proposal creates numerous new categorical programs prior to paying for existing obligations.”

And in regards to the $18 million for a fruits and vegetables breakfast program, I have to wonder why some of the close to $250 million in federal funds that California draws down from the federal government for “nutritious” breakfasts and the millions more in state funding for the school breakfast program are not being used to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables.

Finally, California State Senator Tom McClintock's take on the education budget is one of the funniest and saddest I have read. My favorite line: "I also propose setting aside $3 billion to pay an additional 30,000 school bureaucrats $100,000 per year with the proviso that they stay away from the classroom and pay their own hotel bills at conferences."

Los Angeles Daily New

To understand education budget, start with math
By Tom McClintock

Sunday, May 15, 2005 - The multimillion-dollar campaign paid by starving teachers unions has finally placed our sadly neglected schools at the center of the budget debate. Across California, children are bringing home notes warning of dire consequences if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's scorched-earth budget is approved -- a budget that slashes Proposition 98 public-school spending from $42.2 billion this year all the way down to $44.7 billion next year. That should be proof enough that our math programs are suffering.

As a public-school parent, I have given this crisis a great deal of thought and have a modest suggestion to help weather these dark days. Maybe -- as a temporary measure only -- we should spend our school dollars on our schools. I realize that this is a radical departure from current practice, but desperate times require desperate measures.

The governor proposed spending $10,084 per student from all sources. Devoting all of this money to the classroom would require turning tens of thousands of school bureaucrats, consultants, advisers and specialists onto the streets with no means of support or marketable job skills, something that no enlightened social democracy should allow.

So I will begin by excluding from this discussion the entire budget of the State Department of Education, as well as the pension system, debt service, special education, child care, nutrition programs and adult education. I also propose setting aside $3 billion to pay an additional 30,000 school bureaucrats $100,000 per year with the proviso that they stay away from the classroom and pay their own hotel bills at conferences.

This leaves a mere $6,937 per student, which, for the duration of the funding crisis, I propose devoting to the classroom.

To illustrate how we might scrape by at this subsistence level, let's use a hypothetical school of 180 students with only $1.2 million to get through the year.
We have all seen the pictures of filthy bathrooms, leaky roofs, peeling paint and crumbling plaster to which our children have been condemned. I propose that we rescue them from this squalor by leasing out luxury commercial office space. Our school will need 4,800 square feet for five classrooms (the sixth class is gym). At $33 per foot, an annual lease will cost $158,400.

This will provide executive washrooms, around-the-clock janitorial service, wall-to-wall carpeting, utilities and music in the elevators. We'll also need new desks to preserve the professional ambience.

Next, we'll need to hire five teachers, but not just any teachers. I propose hiring only associate professors from the California State University at their level of pay. Since university professors generally assign more reading, we'll need 12 of the latest edition, hardcover books for each student at an average $75 per book, plus an extra $5 to have the student's name engraved in gold leaf on the cover.

Since our conventional gym classes haven't stemmed the childhood obesity epidemic, I propose replacing them with an annual membership at a private health club for $39.95 per month. Finally, we'll hire an $80,000 administrator with a $40,000 secretary because, well, I don't know exactly why, but we always have.

Our bare-bones budget comes to this:
5 classrooms -- $158,400
150 desks @ $130 -- $19,500
180 annual health club memberships @ $480 -- $86,400
2,160 textbooks @ $80 -- $172,800
5 CSU associate professors @ $67,093 -- $335,465
1 administrator -- $80,000
1 secretary -- $40,000
24 percent faculty and staff benefits -- $109,312
Offices, expenses and insurance -- $30,000
TOTAL -- $1,031,877

The school I have just described is the school we're paying for. Maybe it's time to ask why it's not the school we're getting.

Other, wiser, governors have made the prudent decision not to ask such embarrassing questions of the education-industrial complex because it makes them very angry. Apparently the unions believe that with enough of a beating, Gov. Schwarzenegger will see things the same way. Perhaps. But there's an old saying that you can't fill a broken bucket by pouring more water into it. Maybe it's time to fix the bucket.

Tom McClintock represents the 19th District in the California state Senate. Write to him by e-mail at

No comments: