Schools’ superintendents await bad news from state budget | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Schools’ superintendents await bad news from state budget

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

PLACERVILLE — El Dorado County superintendents will have to wait until a California budget proposal is chosen to understand the significance and timing of the ramifications to education.

During a meeting Wednesday at the El Dorado County Office of Education in Placerville, the higher echelon of school administrators, including County Superintendent of Schools Vicki Barber and numerous district superintendents, painted a grim picture of a possible loss of funding this year and a foreboding future for next school year.

According to Gov. Gray Davis, California is facing a $34.6 million budget shortfall. Adding to the confusion, the Legislative Analyst Office, a nonpartisan office that provides fiscal and policy information to the Legislature, estimated the deficit to be $21.1 billion.

Later this month the LAO is expected to release a revised budget closer to $26 billion.

No matter the number, education is expected to be hit hard.

What hinges on the “when” part is which proposal is passed and signed into action. Davis called for a $2.2 billion reduction for K-12 education during the current school year. For the 2003-04 school year there would be no cost of living adjustment for educators, a continuation of cuts and categorical program funding to be further reduced.

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However, the Assembly proposed a midyear reduction to average daily attendance of $25 per student. ADA is funding the state gives to school districts for each enrolled student. Additionally, the Assembly proposal has a planned $700,000 reduction for El Dorado County districts.

There would be no midyear reductions if the state Senate proposal is accepted, but the hits for next school year would be more severe.

Francie Heim, deputy superintendent for the county, is hopeful a joint proposal by the Assembly and state Senate will be brought forth tomorrow. Heim expects the plan to hold off on midyear cuts.

“All I can say is that we are absolutely going to have huge reductions in education and we know that the benefit of the delay is it gives a little bit more time to the planning process,” she said.

During her slide presentation, Heim provided “points of agreement” between the state Senate and Assembly. The agreements include a $1.1 billion reduction in Proposition 98 funding. The proposition guarantees a certain portion of the state budget goes to K-14 education.

Lawmakers also agree there should be $1 billion in program suspensions and collections of unspent money.

Smaller reductions in the Legislature agreement were $103 million in instructional materials and $21.7 million in the peer assistance and review program.

Paul Hewitt, superintendent of Mother Lode Union School District, said the blast to education will be like an unsuspecting tidal wave.

“The public is not aware of how this is going to affect our children,” he said.

Diane Scheerhorn, superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District, raised the issue of increasing revenue instead of cutting back. In addition to the impacts from the state, LTUSD experienced a decrease of roughly 260 students which equates to more than $1 million lost in ADA funding for next school year.

Scheerhorn hinted at a parcel tax being introduced to South Lake Tahoe voters by summer if approved by the LTUSD Board of Education. The tax would have to be passed by two-thirds of the voters. A survey would have to be done to determine the amount of money gathered from such a tax.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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