NEWSWATCH

Prop. 30 Funds Not Enough For Long Beach Schools

Governor Brown Proposes Additional Funding For Public Education, But Cuts Still Occurring

Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer

January 29, 2013 – Despite an infusion of new funding for public education as a result of Proposition 30 tax increases, local area schools, colleges and universities still face massive budget shortfalls. Program and class reductions, as well as faculty layoffs, continue as K-12 districts and higher education institutions manage long-term structural deficits.

In his proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, Gov. Jerry Brown has allocated $2.7 billion in additional funding for K-12 schools and community colleges. The University of California and California State University systems each would receive an increase of $125 million in funding under Brown’s plan. The governor forecasts a budget surplus of $851 million by the end of the 2014 fiscal year if his plan is approved.

Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD)

The LBUSD Board of Education approved $13.3 million in budget cuts in early January as it tackles a larger $20 million structural deficit. Had Proposition 30 not passed, that deficit would have ballooned to $55 million.

The initial round of reductions includes closing the Monroe K-8 school at the end of the current academic year; elimination of grades 6-8 at Burcham K-8 school; $1 million in transportation savings; elimination of summer school this year for another $1 million in savings; $3.8 million in savings through teacher and staff attrition; $470,000 in reductions to college preparatory programs; and $2.5 million in reductions to special education expenses.

Brown called for more local control of K-12 schools in his “State of the State” address January 24, and proposed a funding formula for school districts based on the “real world problems they face.” He added, “This formula recognizes the fact that a child in a family making $20,000 a year or speaking a language different from English or living in a foster home requires more help. Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice.”

Long Beach City College (LBCC)

Facing a structural deficit of $6.4 million, the LBCC Board of Trustees voted January 23 to discontinue 11 school programs in the 2013-14 academic year for a savings of $2.4 million. As a result, 16 faculty members will be laid off in the coming months. Board of Trustee member Doug Otto, calling the decision to eliminate course programs one of the toughest things he’s ever been a part of, told the Business Journal that he hopes to reduce the number of faculty layoffs even further.

The impacted programs include auto body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, interior design, welding, automotive technology, real estate, photography, air conditioning/refrigeration/heating, diesel mechanics and carpentry. Otto said LBCC would work with impacted students to help them finish their course requirements before the programs are shuttered. Meanwhile, the diagnostic medical imaging discipline was extended for one year, a fact that has prompted an outpouring of thanks from students, Otto said.

The program cancellations will not balance LBCC’s budget, however, and additional cuts to management, full-time faculty and other classified staff positions are likely coming. President Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a statement, “I am painfully aware of the tremendous impacts these reductions will have on our students, faculty and staff, but these recommendations are critical for the long-term fiscal health of the college.”

LBCC has cut nearly 3,000 sections of study since the 2008-09 academic year, a 32 percent decrease in course offerings. College officials told the Business Journal they continue to seek savings across the board, including through negotiated employee benefits. Since fiscal year 2009, LBCC has generated more than $2.6 million in savings through increased worker contributions to health plans.

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)

Students in the California State University (CSU) system will not see their tuition costs increase in the next academic year thanks to Proposition 30’s passage, but the $125 million in additional funding Brown has proposed for the system is not enough to stop further cuts from taking place. CSU officials have requested $372 million extra funding for the 2013-14 academic year. State funding for the CSU system has declined by about $1 billion in the last four years.

“Governor Brown’s proposed budget is an important next step toward restoring funding for the California State University and Cal State Long Beach,” CSULB President F. King Alexander said in a statement. “If approved, this budget would provide our university with much-needed additional funding to better serve students. Although this budget brings good news, it is important to remember it will take several years of consistent reinvestment in our university to fully recover from prior budget cuts.”