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Educators are Cautiously Optimistic at New Budget

January 05, 2006|By Mary O'Keefe

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $4 billion increase in the kindergarten through 12 grade educational budget this week. According to the proposed budget the total spending for K-12 will reach more than $66 billion in 2006-2007, prompting cautious optimism from local educators.

The budget increase comes on the heels of the November defeat of Schwarzenegger's Proposition 76 that would have capped state spending on education. Teachers, education administrators, and the PTA all campaigned vigorously against the proposition. Educators met with the governor and attempted to find common ground.

"I understand [Schwarzenegger] met with education coalition," said Bill Loose, deputy superintendent for fiscal and human resources of La Cañada Unified School District. "As part of the education community we are always excited that there is a proposal for bringing money back to the schools."

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The concern Loose has, however, is that the proposal is short of what is owed the schools from last year. In 2004 educational administrators met with the governor and agreed to forgo $2 billion owed to the schools through Prop. 98, a voter approved measure guaranteeing a certain percentage of the state's budget to schools. The agreement was to pay the money back the following year. However, the 2005 budget did not include the payment. The proposed budget, although a healthy increase, does not make up for the earlier loss.

"There are still some fundamental concerns over Prop. 98," Loose said. He added that his concern was how this money will be funneled to the schools. "What strings are attached to this money? Some are tied in grants," Loose said.

The budget includes an expansion to the career technical education programs, physical education grants, arts and music grants and money to increase the number of science and math teachers.

Loose is glad to see the proposals but wants to wait to see the entire budget. The governor is expected to release the completed version around January 10. Until then educators are pleased but taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We are cautiously optimistic," Loose said.

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