By Christopher J. Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools
Like most people, I was pleased to hear that state revenues are finally beginning to pick up again, in part because our schools rely so heavily on state funding and have suffered millions of dollars in cuts over the past several years.
We learned about the revenue boost when Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his “May Revise,” or the latest draft of the budget. The problem for our schools however, is that the draft state budget remains just that – a draft. We need a final budget approved by Gov. Brown and the Legislature before we can realistically plan for next school year. There’s also no guarantee that rising revenues at the state level will translate into adequate and stable funding here.
The latest budget news from the state came just as we had issued nearly 800 final layoff notices to certificated employees, mostly teachers, here in the Long Beach Unified School District. In essence, we continue to implement our worst-case budget scenario.
We appreciate Gov. Brown’s efforts to protect education, and he has made a valiant attempt to do so in his draft budget. However, his budget is predicated on several uncertainties, including whether the Legislature will fulfill his request to approve a temporary extension of some taxes until voters can decide whether the tax extensions should continue beyond his proposed stop-gap period. Even if the tax extension proposal goes to voters, approval is far from certain.
All of this leaves California school districts no better off than we were before the May revise, because we cannot plan our local budgets based upon wishful thinking.
Our hope as educators is that our lawmakers will not squander this opportunity to make substantive changes in our state budget so that public school funding is preserved and protected from these wild and disruptive boom-and-bust cycles of the economy. Meanwhile, after being forced to cut our budget for eight of the last nine years, we must remain conservative in our planning.
We’re so grateful to all of our parents, teachers, support staff, administrators and others who in recent weeks have applied pressure to our state leaders, reminding them of public education’s importance to our communities, our state and our nation. Please keep up these efforts. We need all the help that we can get.
Read a Q&A on the state’s revised May budget.