June 3, 2009
Obama officials say California can cut $6 billion from schools
California can cut $6 billion from education through June 2010 without jeopardizing federal funds after the Obama administration on Wednesday approved the state's revised application for stimulus money.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's finance officials said last month that they mistakenly assigned $2 billion to California's education spending in 2005-06 when the money was actually spent in 2006-07. The error played a big factor in California's current budget discussion because the state cannot spend less on education now than it did in 2005-06 as a condition of receiving stimulus money.
Under the state's initial application, California could only have cut about $2 billion from the state's education budget through June 2010. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month proposed cutting $6 billion from K-14 schools to shrink a $24.3 billion budget gap, alarming education advocates.
Schwarzenegger aides said that they mistakenly assigned $2 billion from 2006-07 to 2005-06 because technically the money was meant to "settle up" reduced education payments in 2005-06.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said Tuesday that they had no position on whether the state's new application should have been approved. But Steinberg said Democrats were not willing to cut $6 billion from schools.
School groups lobbied the Obama administration and questioned the convenient timing of Schwarzenegger officials discovering they had made an error favorable to more budget cuts right as they needed to make additional school reductions.
The Department of Education on Wednesday said that it concluded California's application revisions "are consistent with the manner by which state appropriations for 'settle up payments' are treated for accounting purposes."
Bob Wells, Association of California School Administrators executive director, said, "It's just a shame. I think it pretty much gives the green light to the state to continue cutting schools."
Wells said $6 billion in cuts would result in more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. Schwarzenegger proposed giving school districts the flexibility to reduce the school year by up to seven and a half days in order to save money.
"The governor is fighting for California's fair share of Recovery Act dollars and is pleased that the administration approved our application," said Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear.
Categories: State budget
Capitol Alert. Sac Bee