Questions, answers about 2014-15 budget: Prop. 30 funding, 3-year budget strategy, no teacher layoffs

Posted: Wednesday, June 11th 2014


Proposition 30 turned the corner on education funding, but we still have a long way to go. It will take us three years after Prop 30 to have the state funding come up to the level of our current school operations. We are bridging the gap with property sales and an early retirement incentive with no teacher layoffs in 2014-15. We will direct our limited funds to those budget lines that improve student achievement. Dr. John Lee Evans, Subdistrict A Trustee on the Board of Education, has prepared this information.Dr. John Lee Evans

I understood that Proposition 30 would put a lot of money into our schools. Why do we still have budget problems?

Proposition 30 stopped the hemorrhaging of state budget cuts to education. But the current plan increases funding so slowly that we will take us until the year 2020 to reach the 2007 level of funding.

Doesn’t the Local Control Funding Formula give a lot more money to San Diego?

The LCFF addresses the issue of equity in funding across the state, but it does not address the issue of adequacy of funding. What does this mean? Governor Brown acknowledged that a district like Compton needs more resources than one like Beverly Hills to create a level playing field of opportunity. The formula does give us an additional grant for students from low income families, English Language Learners and foster children to meet all of their needs. So we are receiving more than some other districts, but the problem is that the base grant for all of the schools across San Diego and across the state is woefully inadequate. That’s why California has ranked between 46th and 49th place among states in per pupil funding for the past several years.

So where is this “extra money” that we have been hearing about?

There is no “extra” money. Last July we acknowledged that it would take three years to stabilize the budget to meet our current operations, staffing levels and class size. We adopted a three year budget plan (13-14, 14-15, and 15-16), which was the amount of time it would take for the income to catch up with our current expenses. If we could stabilize over these three years, we could begin to invest new revenue to improve our schools in the fourth year.

What is the shortfall and why are the numbers always changing?

When the preliminary budget was developed the shortfall was $115 million for 2014-2015 and the projected shortfall for 2015-16 was $69 million. The actual money the state gives us can change. It can go up or it can go down. If more revenues come to the state, our income can go up. On the other hand, it can get worse if the state decides to suddenly increase the district’s pension contribution. It can also go up or down depending on enrollment. These numbers are constantly updated, but the state would have to give us an extra amount equal to each of these shortfalls to begin to have extra money. That is not going to happen.

So how are we supposed to survive these three years?

The board adopted a School Stabilization Fund with proceeds from the sale of properties that the district is no longer using. This provides us money for these three years to avoid making harmful cuts. But it is not sustainable to continue selling properties that generate annual income for the district. This was a short term solution to bridge the gap.

How did we survive all of the state budget cuts the past five years?

We had concessions from all staff in terms of unpaid furlough days for a few years. At this point it’s not reasonable to ask our employees to make any more financial sacrifices. We had federal stimulus money paid to us over three years designed to avoid major layoffs. Of course, those funds are no longer offered. We used up reserve funds in every department to keep our schools successfully operating and there are no more reserve funds to tap.

Does the early retirement incentive for teachers help?

Yes. Because the state is not giving us enough money to employ all of our current staff, we save money by not replacing some of the teachers who retired. Of course, this cannot be done in every case, because we may lack the needed number of teachers with a particular subject credential. The board offered the early retirement incentive to avoid mass layoffs, which create instability in our schools for our students, especially in high poverty schools.There are no teacher layoffs in 2014-15.

We had Vision 2020 forums to discuss how to spend LCFF funds, as required by the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)? Weren’t we talking about how to spend all of the “new” money?

The LCAP is a method for the district to work with the community to set priorities for improving student achievement across the district and we must also show how the supplemental and concentration grants will be used to help the students with the highest needs. The district must show how our budget aligns with our goals for student achievement across the district with the limited funds that we receive. The Superintendent must creatively work with her staff to improve educational outcomes while living within our means. Just as a family must live within its budget, so too must the district. The only difference is that we cannot get a credit card for our operating budget that would allow us to borrow money this year and pay it back in future years. In spite of the budget limitations we will continue to improve student achievement, as we have successfully done for the past five years.

What has the board asked the Superintendent to do in developing our budget?

  1. Complete a budget for all three years of the original plan that is balanced and demonstrates that there will be no shortfall by the following year.

  2. Develop a budget that is student-centric, a budget that places the highest priority on student needs in the classroom.

  3. Following the official adoption of the 2014-15 budget enter into a joint advocacy plan with the Board of Education calling for our state to address the inadequacy of public education funding in California, so that we can again become a national leader.

 

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