Governor-elect Brown briefs California educators on forthcoming education budget strain

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Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

California Governor-elect Jerry Brown begins budget briefing on future education spending at UCLA on Dec. 14, 2010. A spokesman says Brown is putting concrete numbers to the severity of public schools cuts to come.

Incoming governor Jerry Brown summoned to UCLA dozens of public school administrators from throughout the state yesterday, along with leaders from the state’s public colleges. Brown’s intent was to reveal how deep the state’s deficit has become.

Governor-elect Brown didn’t waste any time telling the mostly suit-and-tie crowd at UCLA’s Ackerman ballroom that he can’t swoop into office and save public schools. "For me education is fundamental as well as public safety, those are the pillars of what a civilized society and its government are really based on, and we’re going to do everything we can to minimize cuts to public schools. I can’t promise you there won’t be more cuts because there will be."

The state’s budget will be $28 billion in the red next fiscal year. Short term fixes – such as borrowing and selling off state buildings – have made matters worse.

And schools, State Controller John Chiang said, have borne the brunt of the cost-cutting. "What Jerry is trying to do is get us to a better place where you don’t have to take year after year, solution after solution, the brunt."

Projected graphs and pie charts illustrated how California ranks 43rd in per-student expenditures, 15th in taxes and fees and second in average teacher salaries.

During a question-and-answer session, South Pasadena Superintendent Joel Shapiro was the first to say that statewide taxes are a necessary solution. "The only way we’re going to keep our education system from deteriorating worse is to increase revenue through taxes or fees of one kind or another and not leave it up to the local communities to have to pass parcel taxes or other measures to support their schools at the expense of students throughout the state."

The once and future governor offered no specific proposals. He did say that he’d like to see voters weigh in on the tough decisions ahead. Educators say their biggest task is to help voters resolve the contradiction between their desire for better schools and their distaste for higher taxes.

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