What an “all cuts” budget looks like

Just home from six-plus hours of committee meetings, the first of which was the City-School District Select committee held at City Hall in the gorgeous Board chamber (they have way nicer digs than the Boardroom at 555 Franklin — not that I have any ideas! I like the school board. I do, however, covet the City’s microphone system, which allows you to add your name to a list for the chair if you wish to speak, rather than the system we use across the street, which is to hiss at the chair and repeatedly turn your microphone light on and off in order to get a word in edgewise. If the chair is mad at you h/she might pretend not to see you, which only causes louder hissing and more emphatic button pushing).

Anyway, SFUSD Budget Director Reeta Madhaven led the Supervisors (Avalos, Chu and Cohen) and Commissioners (Fewer, Maufas and Norton) in a presentation of our steadily worsening budget outlook. We’d heard the presentation earlier this month in a Committee of the Whole, but familiarity does not make the numbers more palatable. Due to the failure of the legislature to put a tax extension on the ballot, we are left with two alternatives: the Governor’s original doom and gloom scenario from January (which we were calling “Scenario B” but is now our best-case scenario), requiring cuts of $330 per student, or $25 million, for 2011-12, and deeper cuts for 2012-13;  OR an “all cuts” budget that could require cuts of $800 per student or more.  SFUSD staff has not yet completely costed out an “all cuts” budget, preferring to wait another week or two until the Governor releases his May budget revision (the “May revise”).  But the California Budget Project (CBP) has published a district-by-district breakdown at what an all cuts budget might look like, using an estimate of $764 per student — for us, they say it adds up to an estimated $41 million cut.  Remember, we already cut $113 million from district spending in the two-year budget we passed last spring — that cut was supposed to cover 2011-12 as well as the current year. It’s kind of staggering to think about.

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One response to “What an “all cuts” budget looks like

  1. It’s ironic how people who are perfectly willing to spend thousands of dollars to send their own children to private schools (or volunteer hundreds of hours at bake sales, car washes, etc.) are so quick to say that “throwing money at the problem” is not necessary to fix the problems in public schools.

    I agree that merely giving more money to schools is not an end… but it’s certainly a necessary beginning. Spending that money wisely and well is of course the more important step, and it would be so easy to find a lot of schools or districts that had budget increases and squandered that money on ideas, programs, agencies, district-level offices or departments, or other items that proved ineffective in improving learning in their schools (notice I didn’t say “improving test scores”… the two may occasionally coincide, but correlation does not necessarily equal causation.. or vice versa). I challenge anyone, however, to find examples of schools where budgets were CUT and they proceeded to show remarkable improvement (and changing the demographics of your student body to affect test scores doesn’t count!). Money is not a solution, but it is an necessary component to any important changes.