Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Governor may propose new money for public schools

Schools in line for more aid

Governor tries to mend rift with education advocates.

By Clea Benson -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, January 4, 2006

In a conciliatory gesture, the Schwarzenegger administration said Tuesday the governor wants to begin paying back state funds that education advocates say he promised to schools but never delivered.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time Tuesday also offered some detail about the schools piece of a proposed bond package he plans to unveil in his State of the State speech Thursday.

"Our bond that we propose will have money for building more schools, thousands of more schools, 40-some-thousand more classrooms, modernizing 140,000 other classrooms and so on," he told reporters while he visited a Sacramento River levee that had been eroded by recent storms. "So we really want to move aggressively forward to make sure we do everything we can for education."

Education Secretary Alan Bersin said the governor's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will address the rift that developed last year when schools advocates said the state improperly withheld billions of dollars guaranteed to schools under the terms of Proposition 98, the state law setting minimum levels of school funding.

The proposed budget will include an additional $1.67 billion to pay back about a third of the money education advocates say is owed, Bersin said.

Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for education will include $54.3 billion for kindergarten through community colleges, an overall increase of $4.3 billion over the current year's budget, Bersin said. The Republican governor is scheduled to present his complete budget Tuesday.

Education leaders believe the state owes schools $4 billion more than the governor is planning to propose, but they said they were treating his position as a positive opening move in budget negotiations.

"It's a start," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association.

"It's better than where we were last year at this time."

That reaction contrasted starkly with the anger education leaders expressed last year after learning schools would be getting billions less than they expected.
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