Cuts to set tone for California public schools

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The severity of coming budget cuts remains the number one issue on California educators’ radar screens.

The degree of those budget cuts is anybody’s guess at this point. The governor’s first and second drafts of a state budget – and the legislative wrangling – will come first.

Public schools expect the cuts to be big, according to Kevin Gordon, a Sacramento lobbyist for school districts up and down the state. Although it would require a new law, he’s even heard talk in the state capitol about chopping off more than a month from California’s public school calendar.

"And if that really is the case you start thinking about the cost implication to families," Gordon said. "I can’t think of a bigger tax than what it would take for you to shoulder the obligation of having kids at home a couple of additional months out of the year."

Incoming governor Jerry Brown says he wants voters to make some of the budget decisions at the ballot box. It’s unclear whether he intends to propose a statewide tax increase. Some public school administrators say they’re ready to endorse that proposal to help schools.

For better or worse, incoming governor Jerry Brown is set to leave his stamp on state public education. He’s expected to approve severe funding cuts to schools later this year.

He’s also decided not to fill the state secretary of education job. That’ll mean a larger bully pulpit for elected State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson.

The governor also plans to appoint a handful of new members to the powerful State Board of Education. The State Board of Education is likely to make important decisions this year on issues ranging from student testing to charter schools.