Super pol

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to pull off an incredible feat: He has the teachers’ union’s support to cut $2 billion from the education budget, says the LA Times:

SACRAMENTO — With the support of California’s largest teacher’s union, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to propose cutting at least $2 billion in education spending when he presents his first state budget Friday.

After closed-door negotiations with the governor’s staff, leaders of the California Teacher’s Assn. agreed to back an assortment of temporary education cuts — the details of which remain sketchy — in return for Schwarzenegger’s pledge not to tinker with Proposition 98, according to officials close to the talks. Proposition 98 is a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that K-12 schools and community colleges annually receive an increasing stream of money from the state’s general fund.

Pretty slick negotiating for a musclebound movie actor.

The governor’s education secretary, former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, is working on a dramatic change in education funding that would send money directly to the schools on a per-student basis. The Orange County Register reports:

Schools would be held to strict standards but would be given freedom to determine how they met those standards.

Under the proposal, parents would see much control over their children’s education shift from school boards and district officials to principals and teachers.

The state would set a flat per-student payment — higher for students with higher needs — that would replace the current formulas and categories.

Schools would be required to meet academic standards set by state education officials. But unlike with the current system, which mandates that certain amounts of money be spent on certain programs, schools could choose their own strategies for meeting the standards. School districts would evaluate principals to ensure the standards are being met. State officials would evaluate the districts.

The plan, which is still in development, is inspired by Making Schools Work by William Ouchi, a UCLA business professor.

Currently, many districts spend more at schools with more affluent students. That’s because they can average school spending, hiding the fact that senior teachers have transferred to the lowest-stress schools while the tough schools are staffed with newbies. Riordan’s plan could make it possible for inner-city principals to spend more to hire experienced teachers — or use the extra money for other purposes.

It will take a real super hero to get direct funding passed.

About Joanne


  1. You vil do as I say, or I vil crush you…..
    You know, there may be a lesson here for other politicians: If you actually do something, people will go along or get out of the way…

  2. Everyone always thinks more money at the schools, no one ever talks about reviewing the unfunded mandates and possibly jettisoning some of them to free up the cash.

  3. If all schools get the same amount of money, per-pupil, from the state, then kids in districts with higher local tax revenue will still have better-funded schools.

    We had an upheaval in Tennessee a few years ago because somebody noticed that rural schools were severely underfunded compared to urban schools. Counties that are mostly farmland just don’t collect much money in property taxes and so forth. There was a lawsuit about it. So the state is required to apply some kind of formula and give money to those rural schools. I still read about this being in the courts from time to time.

  4. Bill Leonard says:

    Readers and posters here, especially non-Californians, need to keep a few political realities in mind. Notably: in the whole recall scenario, a better-than-average number of voters turned out to cast a ballot. And two out of three of ’em voted Republican, a fact not lost on the teacher’s unions, which tend to see the state Democrat party as their private preserve. The upshot is, the current Gov is — so far — extremely popular and quite capable of going directly to the people for initiatives to get what he wants.

    Clearly, the education establishment has seen the handwriting on the wall and is cutting the best deal it can, while it can.

  5. That’s “Democratic” Party, and Schwarzenegger’s a Republican in name only. Clearly, the education establishment sees the deficit, values Prop 98 more than holding out against cuts that will come anyway, and made what strikes me as a savvy deal to get a popular governor’s pledge to stay out of its way in return for inevitable short-term pain.

    Or are we saying the same thing with different words?

  6. Rural districts may raise less property tax revenue, but some of their costs should be lower as well. Although I suppose some low-income urban areas could have the worst of both worlds, if additional “combat pay” is required to attract qualified employees.

  7. PJ/Maryland says:

    Laura (and Bart), the unequal funding is a big deal in New York state, which of course includes rural and urban districts and everything in between. One of the things the state funding is supposed to take into account relates to “local tax effort” (that’s my phrase, I don’t know what Albany calls it). If a district is willing to pay higher taxes for better schools, the state is supposed to reward them; this greater effort shows up in the tax rate. This is distinct from districts which have a lower tax rate but collect more taxes because they have higher-valued property (usually commercial property, but also residential).

    From the LA Times article, this deal doesn’t sound especially good. The $2 billion is only for one year, and the deal (apparently) means that next year the state will be back in the same hole. If schools represent 40% of the budget and the deficit is $14 billion, their share of the cut would be a lot more than $2 billion ($5.6 billion, actually).

    Plus, the $2 billion isn’t even a cut. Apparently, the schools were scheduled to receive $3.5 billion more this year, so this just trims that to $1.5 billion.

    I guess it’s impressive that Schwarzenegger has gotten the teacher’s union on board for a cut; my problem is that he’s shown he’s able to leap a 5 story building in a single bound, but he needs to leap over a 100 story building.

  8. Ken Summers says:

    PJ got there before I did, but that’s right as I understand it – the “cut” is merely a smaller increase.

  9. Wacky Hermit says:

    Let’s hear it for more local control of education funds! If Schwarzenegger can do what he says he’s going to do (with taxes as well as education), I might consider moving back to my SoCal homeland.

  10. Bill Leonard says:

    A little more perspective: ignored in all this blabber about how tough the cuts are going to be on education, the crippled on public support who need prosthetics, the incontinent on public support who will go without diapers and so forth, is the fact of absolute numbers. California state spending was about $39.5 billion in FY 1994. It was $78.1 billion in FY 2001. That’s a 98 percent increase in 10 years.

    Since education is reputed to be 40 percent of the budget in any given year, that was a large amount of money dumped on “education” of all kinds in the Golden State, and it was an amount that got bigger every year. So now the teacher’s unions are magnanimously negotiating a $2 billion “cut” which, as has been pointed out, really amounts to a smaller increase.

    I’d like to say, “Gimme a break!” But that won’t happen, so as soon as I can, I will join the roughly 1 million people who leave this economic pit toilet every year.

  11. Ken Summers says:

    To take Bill’s point a little further, here are the approximate budget numbers since Gray Davis took office (in billions and from the state website):

    Year Revenue Spending
    1999 $58.5 $58.6
    2000 $72.2 $64.5
    2001 $78.3 $83.4
    2002 $66.6 $80.4
    2003 $78.6 $78.7

    Any claim that the state has a revenue problem is a lie, as is the claim that revenues were hit hard by the recession (decline in 2002 revenue was to “only” 14% above 1999).

  12. Ken Summers says:

    Um, apologies for the poor spacing. I’m a rookie.

  13. Let me explain California politics to you. The real power lies now, and has since the 50s, in the Speaker of the Assembly and the President of the State Senate. That Senate President is now a guy named Jim Burton who holds court, not in Sac Town but in a South Beach restaurant in Frisco. You cow tow to him in that restaurant or nothing gets passed. He announced today that the Democrats will not cut ONE DIME of spending. Burton knows where the Welfare Class lives, knows how they vote, and knows that no initiative cutting entitlements will ever pass.

    It’s Burton not Arnold who counts. The teachers union and Burton are joined at the head.