For the first time in years, California's financially strapped public schools could see billions more in state funding in the next fiscal year—with one contingency.
And, it's a big one.
Voters will have to approve the tax increases Gov. Jerry Brown is determined to put on the November ballot.
He unveiled Thursday afternoon his budget proposal for 2012-13, allotting $4.9 billion more to K-12 schools than the current year.
But if the tax proposals don't pass this fall, the budget includes an automatic trigger cut of $4.8 billion. Brown projects the tax hikes would provide $6.9 billion in additional revenue for education programs.
Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education called the trigger irresponsible, but said he would likely urge voters to pass the tax proposals anyway in order to keep much-needed revenues flowing into the district.
"More cuts are just plain unconscionable," he said.
Last month, in reacting to the automatic mid-year trigger cuts built into this year's state budget,
Since reaching an all‑time high of $56.6 billion in 2007‑08, state funding of K‑12 schools and community colleges sank to $47.6 billion for the 2011‑12 year.
"It always bears repeating that the 2011-12 level of funding is already woefully inadequate, especially after $18 million in cuts over the previous several years," Allen said.
The state Department of Finance said the budget proposal for next year begins to reverse the recent decline in funding for K‑12 education programs.
When accounting for all state, federal and local property tax resources, total funding for K‑12 education is projected to be $67.1 billion in 2012‑13.
This funding supports California's school districts, charter schools and county offices of education that provide instruction and support services to more than 6 million students.
Across the board, the budget scenario is looking much rosier this year, Brown said.
His office expects to tackle $9.2 billion in red ink when the next fiscal year starts July 1. This year, he and lawmakers grappled to close a $26.6 billion budget gap.
The governor's 2012-13 budget proposal relies on a mixed bag of solutions to overcome the $9.2 billion deficit. They include a half-cent sales tax bump, an increase on the income tax for those making $250,000 or more per year, reduced spending and borrowing.
"It's a balance," Brown said at a press conference in Sacramento at which he unveiled the budget days earlier than anticipated. "We have more needs, desires, demands than the money available."
If voters approve the tax hikes, the state budget would include:
- $2.2 billion to reduce inter-year , an IOU that enables schools to spend money they don't yet have
- Elimination of a that requires students to be 5 years old by Nov. 1 to start school in September
- An extra $4.7 billion in Prop. 98 guarantees for schools statewide
- No cost-of-living adjustments
"Constant budget cuts erode not only the education they receive, they erode the morale and the spirit of everyone involved in K-12 education," Allen said. "Clearly, we need to raise certain revenues."
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who represents Santa Monica and Malibu and is a former president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education, is already asking voters to approve the tax measures.
"I am very concerned California faces another year of austerity," she said in a press release.
The budget proposal was set to be released next week, but when it was mistakenly posted on the Department of Finance's website, Brown's office scrambled to call Thursday's press conference.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified's chief financial officer did not immediately return a message seeking comment for this story.