Protestors Wise to the Governor’s Claims on Education Spending

Why are students, parents, and educators across the state protesting cuts to education when Governor Schwarzenegger claims that his Proposed Budget protects classroom spending? Part of the answer lies in the complex formula used to calculate the Proposition 98 guarantee, the provision in the state’s constitution that guarantees a minimum level of funding for California’s schools and community colleges.

Under the assumptions presented in the Governor’s 2010-11 Proposed Budget, Proposition 98 spending on K-12 education would drop from $50.3 billion in 2007-08 to an estimated $44.1 billion in 2009-10 – a decline of 12.4 percent. The drop in the Proposition 98 guarantee is due in large part to falling state revenues resulting from the continued economic downturn. The Governor claims he is “protecting education.” However, this claim is based on several assumptions that would reduce the minimum funding level required by the Proposition 98 guarantee in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 relative to the funding level required under the assumptions used to develop the budget agreement signed by the Governor in July 2009. In fact, the Legislative Analyst reported recently that under current law, the Proposition 98 guarantee would be $2.2 billion higher in 2009-10 and $3.2 billion higher in 2010-11 than the level provided by the Governor’s 2010-11 Proposed Budget. Under the Governor’s proposal, schools would receive $7,418 per student in 2010-11, nearly $1,500 less than they did in 2007-08, after adjusting for inflation. Maybe that’s why students, parents, and educators protesting today are skeptical about the Governor’s claims.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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