Brown spares K-12 schools in budget cuts plan

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Before he released his budget Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown’s warned Californians that he’d try to spread the pain evenly when he addressed the state’s looming budget gap. Education policymakers maintain the governor didn’t do that in his proposed cuts to publicly funded education.

The governor’s plan cuts nearly $1.5 billion to California public education. Yes, that’s a whopper, the governor conceded: "University of California and the state colleges, another billion dollars, a very difficult cut," Brown said as he listed state funding cuts during a Sacramento news conference.

If the legislature approves the plan, the state’s community college, University of California and the California State University systems would split the education budget cut in roughly equal shares.

It coincides with surging enrollment at many community colleges. Saddleback College spokeswoman Jennie McCue suggested that the timing of the proposed cuts is unfair.

"The college understands that the state absolutely needs to balance its budget but it wants to make sure that the California community colleges are only being asked to contribute their fair share, especially in light of the fact that the K-12 has been held harmless from cuts," she said.

K-12 schools would maintain current state funding for the next fiscal year under the governor’s plan. The governor would spare those schools by proposing a ballot initiative to extend some state taxes. Baldwin Park Unified Superintendent Mark Skvarna said “Hallelujah!” to that.

"If you look at the past few years that we’ve certainly paid our fair share of this budget deficit,” he said. “And to save K-12 education, it’s a breath of fresh air for us."

California State University’s chancellor says the $500 million proposed cut to that system would result in enrollment caps and fewer courses.

The governor proposes an identical cut at the University of California. That’s more than administrators expected, says UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White. He doesn’t call it unfair — but he does assert that because each level of education relies on the other, a cut to one is a cut to all.

"We’re named the University of California, I would make the case that we should be named the University for California, for its economy, for its environment, for its people, for its education, for nutritious and safe food supply, for health care, for safety, for culture," White said. A plan to cut more than $26 billion from California’s budget threatens all of that.