A key legislative fiscal panel has rejected a proposal in the revised May budget to reduce or eliminate a number of K-12 school activities and said the cuts should be considered instead outside the budget process.
Action by the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance came in the wake of an opposition letter signed by most of California’s major statewide education stakeholders as well as organizations representing community groups, law enforcement and public health.
Leaning heavily on recommendations from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, the Brown administration proposed earlier this month cutting $38 million by eliminating or reducing state support for a number of school mandates, while looking for ways to transform the program into a block grant system.
But critics of the idea pointed out Tuesday that despite the efforts of an advisory group gathered under the leadership of the LAO over the past year, no consensus has been reached over how best to revise the program.
Equally problematic, opponents argued, is the notion that some school activities that now receive state support would continue if reimbursements were withdrawn.
“With significant strains already on general fund resources at the school level, we really have no reason to believe these activities will continue to happen without reimbursement,” said Katie Valenzuela, spokeswoman for Public Advocates, a non-profit representing the interests of low-income families. “While many of these (mandates) may seem innocuous on their face – within them are activities regarding direct public accountability, public safety and monitoring.”
Thomas Todd, a spokesman for the governor’s Department of Finance said their goal was to put back some of the decision-making for many activities now required under state law to the local level. “The concept here does build on some very thoughtful discussions that the (LAO) working group did have,” he told the committee.
Among those who have come out against the governor’s plan are the California Teachers Associations, the state PTA, the school boards association, the State Sheriffs’ Association, the state association of child welfare and attendance supervisors and the American Heart Association.
Erin Gable, legislative advocate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, also expressed opposition to the plan Tuesday. Although the CDE was a participant in the LAO’s mandate working group, Gable said any changes need to be carefully considered against other state interests around health, safety and accountability.
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Martinez, attempted to curtail debate over the proposal because her committee had already considered mandate reform at a recent hearing and considered it a legislative policy question.
While the issue will remain a point of debate between lawmakers, education groups and the administration, the committee’s action would suggest that mandate reform will be dropped from the budget negotiations and instead be taken up as part of two bills currently pending.
SB 64 by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, would streamline the accounting process by establishing a priority for the method of reimbursement – setting the unit rate as the preferred option. It would also create a committee of educators and state fiscal officials to advise the Commission on State Mandates on whether new bills or regulations have created mandates and if so, how best schools should be reimbursed.
And AB 202, by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, which among other things, expresses the intent of the Legislature to periodically review the state mandate program to see which should be amended, repealed or left unchanged.
Ed’s Note: This story appears courtesy of Cabinet Report, a subscription-based education news service published by School Innovations & Advocacy. To learn more visit:http://www.siacabinetreport.com/home.aspx Contact reporter Tom Chorneau at: firstname.lastname@example.org