Brown’s Cuts Hit California Education Budget – But Not K-12

California Governor Jerry Brown insists his $1 billion spending cut is necessary. With school busing, colleges, universities, social service programs, libraries and some public safety programs being cut, it seems it’s only K-12 classrooms that will be spared from the most punishing reductions, writes Michael Gardner and Maureen Magee at Sign On San Diego.

Officials from the San Diego Unified School District have been anticipating cuts up to $30 million early next year for K-12 schools, however as the reductions will be between $7 million and $8 million that works out as a more palatable $13.18 per student.

Bernie Rhinerson, San Diego Unified School District chief of staff sums up the mood of officials:

“Strange times when it’s good news that we are getting a midyear cut of $7 million.”

It is thought that this cut will be dealt with by eliminating 15 vacant nonteaching positions, using proceeds from real estate sales and dipping into the reserves. However, an early 2012-13 budget may call for mass layoffs if fortunes don’t improve.

Brown’s budget cuts also target school transportation. $248 million is set to be lost in grants. However, rural districts have hit out at this and the issue looks as if it’s heading for court after Los Angeles Unified School District trustees voted to file a lawsuit challenging the decision.

However, overall the cuts were not as severe as originally forecast.

“These cuts are not good. It’s not the way we would like to run California, but we have to live within our means,” Brown said.

Brown warns that his proposed 2012-13 budget will be more austere. Brown told Californians to expect “a number of more cuts” that could target similar programs with an automatic spending reduction.

But until then, many breathed a sigh of relief.

“Actually, we are pleased that these cuts weren’t as deep as we feared,” said Randy Ward, county superintendent.

Yet, a number of districts may have to scratch for dollars to keep buses on the road, said Ward.

Chris Swanson, a school employees labor union representative in San Diego, echoed these fears claiming that bus drivers are worried about the safety of students.

In some rural areas, Swanson claims that “There are no sidewalks for the kids to walk to school on.”

Swanson said some districts will have to dip into their reserves, but there are many others who may not have the cash on hand, forcing them to lay off staff.

Community colleges face a $102 million cut to campuses statewide. The three-campus San Diego Community College District expects a loss of $3.6 million, according to Chancellor Constance Carroll. Students are set to take most of the hit with an extra $10 per unit hike on tuition, starting May 1.

“We planned for the worst-case with the midyear cuts,” Carroll said.

“Our goal is ensuring our students have a stable semester this coming spring.”