Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

More state budget murkiness leaves education hanging

California Gov. Jerry Brown
California Gov. Jerry Brown
Max Whittaker/Getty Images

Gov. Jerry Brown is reportedly backing off portions of a tax proposal he introduced in January that play a major piece in his 2012 budget plan and the prevention of up to $5.2 billion in cuts to education.

The initial proposal would have called for a half-cent increase to sales tax and raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more. Instead, he appears to be looking for a smaller sales tax increase and a higher raise on taxes for those upper-income earners.

Brown unveiled the tax proposal with his 2012 budget plan, which depends on the governor getting the initiative on the ballot and approved by voters. Without the tax increases, the budget calls for an additional $5.2 billion in cuts to education.

What happens with the state budget will likely have a major ripple effect on school budgets, which are being formulated now, despite the host of many unknowns given the state's budget situation.

On Tuesday, L.A. Unified approved its second interim budget plan that calls for major cuts to adult and early education, elementary arts programs and the elimination of its funding for Academic Decathlon, marching band and outdoor education. The district has had to send out more than 11,700 preliminary pink slips to educators in preparation for its "worst case scenario" plan.

This district plan is presuming Brown's measures, which were to generate an estimated $6.9 billion annually, were to pass. It is unclear what a new proposal would look like and whether voters would approve it if it got on the ballot.

The L.A. Unified plan, which now estimates a $390 million budget shortfall, is an improvement over the February estimate of a $557 million hole in the district's $6-billion budget. Based on that figure, there would have been a wholesale cut to adult education without the minor restoration of the Regional Occupation Program training for 46,000 high schoolers. Even so, 250,000 adult school students will not be served under the current approved budget plan without concessions from unions.

The district said the additional roughly $180.5 million that prevented even worse cuts in this second budget plan was due to the state Legislature's vote to restore transportation funding to schools, higher than expected revenues from the lottery and lower expenditures on benefits.

A $298 annual parcel tax for the November ballot was approved by board members Tuesday. If approved by voters it would apply to property owners within LAUSD boundaries for five years starting in 2013-14. The tax aims to collect $255 milllion annually for schools. To pass, the parcel tax requires approval by two-thirds of voters within LAUSD boundaries.

It is not clear what sort of governor's tax initiative it might join, if any, at this point.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).