CA: Governor makes a grab for state school funds (guaranteed by Prop. 98)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose budget already makes dramatic cuts in education, is proposing to withhold billions of dollars from schools that were guaranteed by a measure approved by voters two decades ago.
School officials and education advocates railed Tuesday against Schwarzenegger's proposal, which would go into effect after 2010, arguing that it would make permanent reductions in school spending that would eliminate programs and increase the size of classes.
"The vast majority of the education community in California believe that we're underfunded already," said Nancy Waymack, a policy director for San Francisco's public schools. "So when the state defers money, that's one more year that we don't have to spend on our students. If they're never going to pay it back, then that just makes the picture even worse."
But Schwarzenegger's finance officials say the administration is simply abiding by the rules of Proposition 98, a 20-year-old initiative that sets minimum education funding obligations for the state.
"We don't think this is a gray area," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's finance department.
At issue is which Prop. 98 formula should be used to set base school funding, a calculation that is dependent largely on the state's revenue.
California's struggling economy has resulted in an estimated $40 billion deficit for the state government during the next 18 months. Despite months of negotiations, Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, who plan to meet again today, so far have failed to find a compromise to bridge the gap.