Schools push back on Brown’s deferral proposal

Schools push back on Brown’s deferral proposal

(Calif.) The Brown administration’s proposed, one-month deferral of some $860 million in school funding this summer drew widespread opposition Tuesday before a key legislative panel from both school groups and lawmakers.

But the governor’s representatives declined to say how Brown might use additional tax dollars due schools assuming the governor’s conservative revenue projections proves too low.

With the deadline for the revised May budget fast approaching, negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders are also getting increasingly serious. Tuesday’s hearing before the Assembly’s school finance subcommittee is one of the first in a series of reviews that the Legislature will conduct to both get public input and gauge support amongst themselves for other options.

By far the biggest issue this year is the big gap between what the governor believes the state will collect in tax revenue this year and next, versus what the non-partisan Legislative Analyst has said. The difference between the two could result in a swing for schools and community colleges of nearly $1 billion.

There’s strong evidence that Brown’s cautious fiscal projections will prove wrong, which was based largely on collections missing projections several times since July–most notably a drop off of $756 million in December.

The December dip was quickly reversed by an upswing of $747 million above forecasts in January–thus, most in the Capitol are expecting far better revenue numbers comes May.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, chair of the subcommittee attempted at one point Tuesday to pin down the governor’s Department of Finance about the expectation of more money in the school budget and what adjustments the governor might make.

“Hypothetically, if the revenues were more in line with what the LAO projects, what would be the priorities of the administration?” McCarty asked.

Lisa Mierczynski, representing the governor, said they were not ready to answer that question.

Speaking for many school officials that attended the hearing, Assemblywoman Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, pointed out that the time period that the administration wants to impose the $860 million funding deferral would come at a critical time.

“I’ve heard someone say that it’s only two weeks,” she said. “But it happens to be the two toughest weeks because you are closing out one fiscal year and starting another.”

Administration officials defended the idea, noting that schools receive about 9 percent of the money provided under the Local Control Funding Formula in June–an allocation that would be proportionally large enough to cover the short-term expense of the deferral.

Meanwhile, the administration also acknowledged that they want a year delay in revising content standards for visual and performing arts and world language. In addition, they want to delay development of the standards for computer science.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said that much of the work to develop and build new content standards can’t be paid for with Proposition 98 dollars–thus; all of this work is funded by the state general fund. Based on the revenue projections that Brown’s office made in January, there just isn’t money at this time to pay for the effort.