Schools Suffer the Budget Blues

As students prepare to kiss summer goodbye and head back to the classroom, it is worth pondering what the current round of budget cuts means for California’s schools. Previous CBP blog posts have examined the impact on children’s health and social service programs, and our budget summaries document the cuts that touch all areas of state services from parks to criminal justice. How do big numbers – such as the $16.1 billion of reductions in the July budget agreement or the $8.6 billion in 2008-09 cuts to public schools – translate at the local level?

As enacted in September 2008, the 2008-09 Budget established a funding level of $51.6 billion for K-12 education programs covered by the Proposition 98 funding guarantee. The February budget agreement reduced 2008-09 school funding to $44.7 billion and the recent July budget agreement further reduced K-12 education funding to $43.1 billion. The September budget translated into a per pupil funding level of $8,726. The July budget reductions cut this amount to $7,243 – 17.0 percent less than the level established by the September Budget Act – or nearly $45,000 less for a classroom of 30 students.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will lessen the impact of recent cuts to education funding but it doesn’t come anywhere near making California’s schools whole. Reductions to 2008-09 school funding made by the February and July 2009 budget agreements were more than twice the amount of ARRA payments to California’s schools last year. Moreover, cuts to 2009-10 school funding included in the recent budget agreements exceed remaining ARRA payments to California by at least $1.5 billion. Therefore, despite substantial infusion of federal funds, schools will have fewer resources with which to educate California’s students this back-to-school season.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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