Groups Urge Repeal of Education Finance Bill

By Deonna Anderson, EGP Staff Writer

Sacramento—The California School Boards Association has called into question a new law passed as part of the state budget deal reached in June. The bill, authored by the Assembly Budget Committee and signed by the governor, included 22 mandates for K-12 and higher education systems.

A provision that would force school districts to retain teachers even if their funding is decreased has drawn the ire of school district officials from across the state. They say AB 114, passed without any public discussion or review, should be repealed because it will tie their hands and limit their options for making tough decisions during budget shortfalls.

The governor, however, doesn’t see it that way.

In a message to state legislators, Gov. Jerry Brown said the Education Finance trailer bill does not “interfere” with local school board decisions, and “School boards should take all reasonable steps to balance their budgets and to maintain positive cash balances.”

Deflecting responsibility, Brown went on to say that school districts would have had billions more in state funding, “if Republicans in the Legislature had allowed the people of California to vote on tax extensions.”

Backed by the powerful California Teachers Association, AB 114 protects teachers from being laid off by their districts, it also tells school districts to assume they will receive the same level of funding from the state as they did in the fiscal year prior.

Members on the Assembly Budget Committee said they wanted to make sure school districts do not lay off more teachers if less than anticipated revenues trigger mid-year cuts as required in the new budget.

Past funding cuts have forced teacher layoffs and furloughs, as well as an increase in class size in districts across the state. Educators say both those actions negatively affect student performance. AB 114 would require school boards to find other ways to cut expenses and balance their budgets, without cutting teachers.

The California School Boards Association is urging its members to step up efforts to undo AB 114.
“CSBA does not believe that the provisions in this bill are prudent and we believe that they will be disruptive to school districts as you try and manage your budget,” said Vernon Billy, the association’s executive director in a video posted on the group’s You Tube channel in early July.

While the month long legislative recess temporarily halted efforts to repeal the legislation by elected officials, the Assembly Republican Caucus is still interested in pursuing an overthrow of the bill, according to Sabrina Lockhart, press secretary to Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, a Republican from Tulare.

Lockhart said the Caucus sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris requesting a legal opinion on the manner in which the measure was passed, but has not yet heard back.

“The caucus has concerns on the legality… It is questionable that [the legislature] can shift $2.1 billion without suspending Prop 98.” According to the letter, the bill adopted a minimum funding requirement that was $2.1 billion below the amount required by the proposition passed in 1988, which would make it difficult for districts to pass a balanced budget without decreasing the number of resources available to students.

Christian Griffith, Chief Consultant to the Assembly Budget Committee, told EGP they do not think the mid-year trigger cuts will happen.

State Controller John Chiang in July, confirmed revenues were $538.8 million below projections in the state budget.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Republican Caucus is prepared to try and repeal the bill if the attorney general finds any issues with its legality.

And while CBSA is shifting its efforts to developing coping strategies, Brown said they are still prepared to “support any effort to repeal it.”

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August 25, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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