Governor Schwarzenegger floats idea of mid-year schools cuts

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has warned public school leaders to brace themselves for significant mid-year budget cuts. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story about how they're responding.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The governor convened more than a dozen representatives from teachers' unions and other educators' groups. Rick Pratt of the California School Boards Association was one of them.

Rick Pratt: Those of us who've been around the capitol for a while know that anytime the governor asks for a meeting of this nature, it's never going to be good news.

Guzman-Lopez: Pratt said the governor told the group the economic downturn's pushed the current state budget more than $5 billion into the red. That's why Schwarzenegger wants public schools to cut 2 to 4 billion dollars from their budgets.

A spokesman for the governor wouldn't confirm the details of the educators meeting, but he did say the legislature will tackle the deficit in an upcoming special session. George Runner, who represents Lancaster in the state senate, told KPCC's "Patt Morrison" the schools could manage with less.

George Runner: I think what we need to do is talk about how we can help them be more flexible with the dollars they have. I think there's greater flexibility we can give them, I think there's some mandates we can remove from them.

Guzman-Lopez: South Pasadena Unified School Board member Joseph Loo agrees with Runner. Loo doesn't welcome more cuts, but he said his district's doing okay.

Joseph Loo: It makes us more creative with what we have. I think good education doesn't come just from money. You can't throw money at education and make it better.

Guzman-Lopez: Loo's school district is more fortunate than others. A foundation and a booster club contribute nearly $1 million a year toward district expenses. The superintendents of Los Angeles Unified and the Downey Unified schools said budget cuts would seriously compromise education in their districts.