Republican Lawmakers Propose Loosening Restrictions on School Spending

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State Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to loosen up school spending. Republicans boast their legislation would help California's public schools cope with big budget cuts. KPCC's Julie Small has the story.

Julie Small: Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Clovis unveiled six bills he says will raise education standards, and at the same time, make it easier for schools to spend education dollars.

Mike Villines: We think there's a way to do all of these things and make sure that no teachers are laid off.

Julie Small: The measures would loosen restrictions on how school districts can use billions of dollars each year.

Villines: We have been reaching out to education across the state and what they're telling us is, "Look. We know we're in for a tough time, but you can help us right now by freeing our hands and let us use money in a different way."

Julie Small: Right now, the State of California has 62 funding streams locked in for specific types of programs or staff positions. Republicans want to cut that down to six broader and more flexible funding streams. They also want to let school districts reallocate this year's unspent money from those streams so they can use it where they need it.

One of the top school administrators in Mike Villine's Assembly district says the measures would help him. Bill McGuire helps runs 43 public schools in Clovis, just outside of Fresno. McGuire says his district has to cut nearly $9 million from next year's budget.

Bill McGuire: Senior administration is being eliminated in Clovis Unified School District. Teachers are not being hired. Classified positions are going unfunded. We are changing dramatically the way we do business. These items of flexibility, if they're given to us now, would mean that we do not have to do those things.

Julie Small: Or not as many of those things, says McGuire. But not all the Republican proposals are cost-cutters. A couple of them might require schools to spend more money by requiring them to make budget data public, and to evaluate the reading level of all third graders.