By Jason KUROSU
Glendale Unified School District officials hosted a budget update at Crescenta Valley High School on Wednesday night, June 6, to inform the attending parents of the latest fluctuations in the education budget and the latest plans for Measure S funds.
As with many state funded programs, education has not escaped Gov. Edmund G. Brown’s series of austerity cuts. GUSD Superintendent Dick Sheehan did not waste time in addressing the state’s budgetary issues and their effect on education.
“The state of funding for the district is not good at this time and it has not been for the last five years,” said Sheehan. “Right now, in some ways, we’re being held hostage by two tax initiatives.”
The initiatives Sheehan referred to are part of Gov. Brown’s cuts, which call for voter-approved tax increases. Brown has expressed confidence that voters will approve the increases, although that has not fallen entirely in line with voter sentiment. Without that tax revenue, Brown has said the state will need to make massive cuts, mostly in education.
According to Sheehan, if those tax initiatives fail, the district will be forced to cut $441 per child in January 2013.
“We’re facing two scenarios: whether the taxes pass and whether the taxes don’t pass. Either way, we have not been funded appropriately and we have been flat funded for approximately the last five years, while all our revenues have been flat and our expenses have gone up,” said Sheehan.
GUSD Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Lueck spoke about the tax initiatives’ potential effects on the education budget.
“You may see the headlines out there saying ‘$6 billion for education’ or ‘windfall for education.’ That’s not really the case,” said Lueck. “If this initiative passes, we will remain flat funded. We will not have an increase next year for education.”
Lueck explained that delayed pay for district employees due to state budget demands has led to the district not receiving that delayed pay until next year, some of which would be paid with the tax initiative dollars.
“Even if that initiative passes, we’re going to be facing cuts,” said Lueck. “The reality is if it doesn’t pass, the cuts are going to be much, much larger. We’ll be looking at an additional $11.3 million in cuts.”
Lueck did not paint an appealing picture of the financial situation, explaining that the district is going through a structural deficit, that the costs of expenditures has increased while the money the district receives from the state has decreased.
Also discussed were new updates for Measure S, two major projects in particular. One involves building a brand new facility at College View, which would house six classrooms. The other portion of Measure S projects involves increasing technological infrastructure.
Deputy Superintendent John Garcia discussed what the district’s plans are regarding upgrading their technological infrastructure.
“The proposal at this point is to spend 20% of our Measure S funds over the course of about the next 10 years during the life of the bond, which is $54 million over that timeline, to continue upgrading our technology,” said Garcia.
Some of the infrastructural increases include increasing bandwidth district-wide. Garcia’s slideshow indicated that the district’s current bandwidth is at 10 mbps (megabits per second) and they recommend it to be up to 1,000 mbps at all sites.
Measure S talk has also included the building of a Network Operations Center, which would house the district’s network.
Much of the push for increased technology is to get students adapted to increasingly global working relationships made possible by technology and to help students gain “21st Century skills.”
“We want to get to a point where we have students at Valley View working with kids at Keppel via computers and actually doing assignments together without ever meeting until maybe after the assignment’s over,” said Sheehan. “That’s the way the real world works now.”