By Jason KUROSU
Governor-Elect Jerry Brown held a state budget forum last Tuesday at UCLA in which he highlighted the budgetary obstacles that California will face going into the new year. Brown made no secret of the budget problems.
“We’re facing some pretty … pretty is a soft word. This is really a huge challenge, unprecedented in my lifetime,” Brown said to start off the forum.
In order to combat growing deficits, Brown is prepared to make cuts to spending. With 40% of the state’s budget required by law to go to education, it is unsurprising that many of the cuts will occur in that sector.
Brown expressed no pleasure over having to make cuts to education.
“Education is fundamental, as well as public safety. Those are the pillars of what a civilized society and its government are based on. We’re going to do everything we can to minimize cuts to public schools. I can’t promise there won’t be more cuts, because there will be. But we have a $28 billion deficit … and we’re going to have to do everything we can to bring it within a balanced budget.”
While the final figures will be unavailable until the new budget is proposed on Jan. 10, in Governor-Elect Brown’s presentation, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the state funding for public school education to be about $47.5 billion for the 2011-12 school year. It is the lowest in years, including a full $10 billion less than during the 2007-08 year.
Glendale Unified School District Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Lueck expects that number to be lower.
“We’re not sure what the numbers will mean until the budget proposal on January 10th. We know it will be negotiated and we at the district will have to implement whatever [Brown] says.”
Education has taken its toll financially throughout the years of the budget crisis and the unfulfilled needs only seem to pile up year after year. Another slide in Brown’s presentation indicated that California has close to the largest student per teacher ratio out of all 50 states (20.8 students per teacher), indicating overflowing class sizes and not enough teachers. Unfortunately, it seems that the state may not be able to keep the teachers they have, much less hire new ones.
“In prior years, we’ve been told we’d have funds for lowering class sizes and hiring teachers, but that didn’t happen,” Lueck said. “It’s hard to have credibility when we’re told we’re going to get money and it doesn’t happen.”
All that those who work in education or have children in public schools can do is wait until the Jan. 10, in hopes of some good news for a state with more educational needs than ever.
“My grandchildren in Pennsylvania are in classes of 15 or 17 children,” Lueck said. “I can’t even imagine a class of less than 32.”