Thursday, August 07, 2008

O'Connell and the state budget impasse

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Calls on
Legislature and Governor to Reach Budget Accord
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today issued the following statement urging the Legislature to approve the state budget passed by the Legislative Budget Conference Committee and for the Governor to enact it immediately:

"The Legislative Budget Conference Committee has approved a compromise that takes a balanced approach to closing the $15.2 billion budget shortfall while still protecting California's key priorities. The Conference Committee package closes tax loopholes and increases revenues to protect public education and other vital services. With the additional revenues generated by the Conference Committee budget plan, $2.4 billion of the Governor's proposed $4.3 billion in cuts to our schools would be restored. This plan includes funding to maintain important programs such as Class Size Reduction and provides a partial cost-of-living adjustment that will help attract and retain quality teachers. It will also help offset rising gasoline and transportation costs that are deeply impacting our schools.

"California already ranks 46th in the nation in per-student spending. For schools this means, among other things, that we are last in the nation in the number of librarians, counselors, and school nurses per student. Far too many of our students are not getting the support they need to reach their full potential. Without a budget in place that protects public education, schools that are already struggling will have to cut even deeper, resulting in more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and elimination of career technical education courses and the few arts, music, and elective courses still available.

"We now know the true extent of our state's dropout problem, and the achievement gap between our African American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students and those who are white or Asian. Further cuts to our schools simply will put more hurdles between our neediest students and the education they deserve.

"The budget is now 29 days overdue. While the Governor and Republican legislators seem to be in no hurry to put a spending plan in place, the clock is ticking toward the start of a new academic year.

"Our neediest schools already have paid a price for the lack of action by Republicans in the Senate. By failing to approve SB 606 by Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata, $47 million in critically needed federal funds sit idle, rather than being used as intended to help improve student achievement in some of our lowest performing school districts. Worse, without Republican support, $19 million of these funds will be permanently lost as they will soon revert to the federal government.

"In the midst of a budget crisis that is already unfairly affecting public education in California, failure to approve SB 606 was egregiously irresponsible. I urge the Senate and Assembly Republicans and the Governor not to compound this mistake. They must act now to approve a state budget that protects our schools and our students."

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