What split? … School groups stress unity on some key issues

03.13.2012 | Sacramento Bee | Jim Sanders

At a time when California education groups are split on
which tax measure to support in November, their leaders joined forces
Tuesday to emphasize unity on bolstering school funding and avoiding deeper cuts.

“Families cannot see their children take any more losses,” said Carol Kocivar of the California State PTA as districts statewide brace to send out thousands of pink slips before a Friday deadline.

Besides PTA, the Education Coalition news conference included officials of the California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, and the California School Employees Association.

The groups announced consensus on a handful of budget-related school issues, including:

• Opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown‘s proposal to eliminate most of schools’ “categorical” funding – for specific programs such as class-size reduction or adult education
– and to institute a “weighted formula” that could give districts more
discretion over spending. The coalition said that launching such a major
overhaul in a year of budget-cutting is wrong.

• Opposition to Brown’s proposed “trigger cuts,” involving billions
in statewide programs and services that would be slashed if voters fail
to pass a revenue-raising measure in November. The coalition estimated
that trigger cuts would total $4.8 billion for schools.

• Support for some form of revenue enhancement for state education,
though the California Teachers Association, California Federation of
Teachers, and the PTA are split on which of three rival tax-increase
measures to back for the November ballot.

• Support for the Legislature to conduct a “full policy hearing” on
key proposals in Brown’s budget that would result in major policy
changes for K-12 education, including the weighted funding formula and
elimination of state funding for transitional kindergarten.

• Support for “maintaining the integrity of Proposition 98.” To cite
one example, the coalition said it was “inappropriate and
unconstitutional” to include $2.4 billion of debt service payments when
calculating the Proposition 98 guarantee.

Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of
California School Administrators, said the massive number of pink slips
being mailed out by school districts provides a stark warning about the
urgency of funding.

“Right now, we have to budget for a worst-case scenario,” he said.

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