After carving deeply into California’s K-12 budget over the past two years, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed Wednesday to spare schools from further cuts in the budget he will propose for fiscal 2011.
In his final State of the State address, the term-limited governor said that the state’s still-ailing budget will require more painful spending cuts in the coming months, but that he would draw the line on further cuts to both K-12 and higher education.
Spending on the state’s public schools has been slashed by nearly $18 billion since 2008, as the governor and lawmakers struggled to close what was a $62 billion deficit. K-12 spending this year still makes up about 37 percent of California’s $91.4 billion overall budget. The state’s total public school enrollment is about 6 million students.
The fiscally battered state now faces a nearly $20 billion deficit over the next 18 months.
“Because our future economic well-being is so dependent upon education, I will protect education funding in this budget,” Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in his Jan. 6 speech to a joint session of the California legislature.
The governor, who is in the final year of his second term, also proposed a constitutional amendment to guarantee that the state will never spend more on prisons than it does on higher education. The governor said that the state is spending nearly 11 percent of the general-fund budget on prisons and 7.5 percent on colleges and universities. Thirty years ago, prison spending was at 3 percent and higher education at 10 percent, he said.
In his address, Mr. Schwarzenegger cited the passage of controversial education reform legislation on Tuesday by the state Assembly, which aims to help make California a strong contender for as much as $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds under the economic-stimulus program enacted by Congress nearly a year ago. Over objections from the California Teachers Association, state legislators agreed to drop the so-called “firewall” that prevented tying student-achievement data to individual teachers’ evaluations. The guidelines for the federal grant competition call for states to eliminate such barriers.
The governor also highlighted a measure that would allow a majority of parents whose children attend a low-performing school to demand a management change, including the possible ouster of the principal. Hailed by some as a transformative reform, the “parent trigger” would be limited to 75 schools statewide. Under the reform package, parents would also be able to transfer their children from poorly performing schools to other campuses, even across school district lines.
The CTA, an affiliate of the National Education Association, has opposed the legislation and continues to urge its defeat as it is expected to be voted on Wednesday by the state Senate.
A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week