Schoolyard Tricks and the Education Budget: Queenie, Queenie, Where's The Ball?
By Sheila Kuehl
Somehow, writing about the Governor's initial budget for education made me think about schoolyard games. Is the money there or not? Is the state giving or taking away?
Where's the ball?
For me, schoolyard games always began when they pushed us out of class for recess expecting that we would get some good exercise and have some fun. Maybe it's just me, but I remember those "fun" times in a darker light as vehicles for the stronger kids to terrorize, embarrass and trick the rest of us, especially during the ball games.
Ball game tricks probably date all the way back to the ancient Mesoamericans who were thought to have played games with rubber balls as early as 1600 B.C. I'll bet they also played some version of an early twentieth century English and American game called Queenie Queenie, Who's Got the Ball?
In that game, one player (Queenie Queenie). without peeking, throws the ball over her shoulder. Another player catches it and hides it behind his back, while the rest of the players pretend that they are the ones with the ball, all the while chanting, haranguing, crowding and goading poor Queenie to find the one who was hiding the ball.
Game plays that involve hiding the ball have become a staple, not only in tennis, baseball, football and all the other sports (probably excepting basketball), but also in politics and legal actions, where the phrase"playing hide the ball" is now ubiquitous.
The Art of Queenie in the Education Budget
To everyone's joy, the January budget proposal provided a grand, fairly robust 52.5 billion of Prop 98 monies for K-12 education in 2012-13. This amount represented an increase of 4.9 billion dollars over the 2011-12 budget amount. But...(where's the ball?)
That 4.9 billion evaporates if the Governor's tax initiative (Prop 30) fails to pass in November. With that failure, the "trigger"included in the budget reduces the overall funding in the budget for K-12 and Community Colleges by 4.8 billion dollars, a total met by dropping a payment of 2.4 billion meant to pay back monies owing due to failures to meet Prop 98 guarantees in the past, plus another 2.4 billion in unspecified programmatic reductions. Translation: hey districts, figure it out on your own.
Other Schoolyard Games: Hot Potato
Without reference to whether Prop 30 passes or not, the budget eliminates funding for the new and somewhat controversial "transitional kindergarten" that was supposed to help kids who were suddenly slightly too young for admission to kindergarten under last year's new rules because of their birthday month. The budget "scores" a savings of 223.7 million for not funding this program.
The budget withholds any cost of living increases across the entire K-14 system, but drops in an IOU for the future, if funds are available, by creating a "deficit factor." (Good luck with that one, everybody.)
The budget also totally eliminates funding for the School Transportation program for a savings of 496 million, even if Prop 30 passes.
Some programs do, however, get a bit of a bump: 158 million to fund projected growth in student attendance, 56.6 million increase for expected growth of population in charter schools and 12.3 million for expected growth in special education programs.
Mandated Programs: Hey! We Were Just Kidding!
As he has in the past, the Governor continues to try to consolidate the plethora of individually mandated programs called "categoricals." The January budget proposed a total of 178 million dollars for a new block-grant mandate incentive program, but eliminated almost half of the one-by-one mandates now in law, including the second science course requirement for graduation, as well as the Behavioral Intervention Plan program.
Categoricals were proposed to be consolidated into a single stream of funding on a permanent basis (excepting federally required programs such as Child Nutrition and Special Education). The newly proposed formula would provide a basic per-pupil allocation with additional weights for economically disadvantaged students and English learners.
Higher Education: How Low Can We Go?
The Governor's January budget reflects an attempt to help UC live within its steep 2011-12 cuts by eliminating statutory requirements regarding the Charles R. Drew Medical Program, AIDS research and the Summer School for Math and Sciences, and allowing the University "more flexibility" in how it allocates its mandated cuts. The Governor also provides 9.7 million dollars for debt service associated with UC capital outlay projects, but puts it within the regular budget, in competition with all other costs. The January budget also proposes that, after this budget, there will be no more new money for UC debt service.
Similarly, the January budget proposes 5.5 million for debt service reduction in the CSU base budget, rather than off-budget, as before, and terminates further debt service funding.
Overall, should Prop 30 pass, both the UC and CSU systems were projected to receive a 4% increase for the next three budgets, provided they each reach certain metrics such as graduation rates and the enrollment of a sufficient number of transfer students. However, should Prop 30 fail, an unallocated reduction of 200 million dollars is "triggered" for UC and the same amount for CSU, effective January 1, 2013.
Student Aid: Limiting Who Can Even Get The Ball
The monies proposed for student aid in higher education in the January budget include 83.6 million dollars more than that included in the 2011-12 budget, primarily to reflect fully funding Cal Grants, given the increases in student fees at UC and CSU. However, 302 million is removed from the Cal Grant program by reducing the award amount for students attending private for-profit colleges and universities, reducing the award amount for students attending independent, non-profit schools and raising the minimum grade point average requirement for applicants.
The budget language also reverses a recent decision by the California Student Aid Commission to allow a break in enrollment and attendance between community college and transfer to a four-year institution. The Commission had decided not to require that students go immediately from their community college to a four-year college but the Brown administration opined that such breaks could cost the General Fund over 70 million in new costs and proposed in the budget to return to the previous go now requirement.
Finally, the Governor's budget proposed eliminating new awards for Student Loan Assumption Programs for Teachers and Nurses, although renewal awards would continue to be funded through 2015-16.
Next: The Governor's Proposed January budget regarding Realignment, Government Efficiencies and a Few Other Tidbits.
This is the third in a series of essays exploring California's 2012-13 budget. The first essay set out the general provisions of the budget sent by the Governor to the legislature in January of this year. The second essay discussed specific cuts proposed in that initial budget to welfare-to-work (CalWORKS), child care and Medi-Cal. This essay was republished with permission. Author Sheila Kuehl served for eight years in the State Senate and six years in the State Assembly. Senator Kuehl served as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee from 2000-2006. Her website is www.sheilakuehl.org.