Sorry, Education: CA State Budget Deficit at $28 Billion

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Governor-elect of California Jerry Brown led a day-long community forum on the state’s budget crisis in Los Angeles on December 16, 2010. He warned that the state was deeper in debt than had been thought–$28 billion short in the next 18 months and $20 billion gaps per year thereafter.

The community forum’s focus was the projected loss of $9 billion for education in California’s K-16 public school system.

Educators responded by calling for an end to cuts, asking for greater discretion at the local level as to how dwindling dollars are spent, urging the state to seek more federal funding and requesting legislation that would allow them to increase local property taxes with 55% of the vote rather than the current requirement of two-thirds.

“There is no more meat on this bone to carve, the only thing left is amputation,” said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers’ Association.

Brown noted that surveys of the public showed that 60% did not want to cut services, but 60% also did not want to raise taxes. The State Director of Finance said that

California ranks 15th nationally in taxes and fees; has the fourth-lowest number of state employees per capita; has the worst student-to-librarian ratio and the 49th-worst student-teacher ratio in the country; and ranks 43rd in spending per student.

Educators and parents’ groups pledged to work with Brown however they could, including persuading the public that taxes need to be raised in order to properly educate the state’s children. But they acknowledged that deep and painful cuts were unavoidable. It’s likely once the preliminary budget is presented in January 2011 that voters will be asked to help prioritize cuts and revenue-generation in a special election.

Around the nation, equally dire discussions of budget shortfalls preoccupy 15 governors and state legislatures. Illinois, Washington state, and Texas were among those hardest hit. A report released by the National Conference of State Legislatures says 24 states predict moderate to severe budget shortfalls in 2013 and perhaps beyond.

This story originally posted on Care2.com, December 16, 2010.

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