State Schools Chief Appeals To County Education Leaders
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is warning school districts to plan for the worst and took steps to tally the impacts on California schools if the state’s temporary taxes expire July 1.
“Californians cherish their schools,” Torlakson said. “Before we miss the chance to help our state’s 6.2 million schoolchildren weather this financial emergency, people have a right to know the consequences.”
In a letter to county school superintendents, Torlakson noted that time is running dangerously short to place a tax extension before voters.
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Torlakson warned that without an extension, an “all-cuts” budget could force the state to cut school spending by as much as $4.5 billion or 10 percent of the K-12 annual budget. He urged officials to assess the impacts now.
The letter comes two months after Torlakson declared a state of financial emergency in California’s schools, which have endured $18 billion in cuts over the last three years, equivalent to about one third of the state's annual spending on K-12 schools each year.
The full text of the letter:
Dear County Superintendent:
FISCAL EMERGENCY INFORMATION REQUEST
I am writing today to ask for your help with compiling information about the number of pink slips and lay-off notices being issued, and the program cuts being proposed, by the Local Education Agencies in your jurisdiction.
As you know, should the state budget resolution require an all-cuts solution, our schools could face an additional $4.5 billion in cuts—a dire situation for our schools already facing a state of fiscal emergency. Are most of your districts producing layoff and program reduction plans based on the “all-cuts” budget assumption? I think it is vital for the public to know the full impacts of the worst-case budget scenario.
Given the urgency we face, I ask you to share the pink slip, layoff notice, and program cut information with me as soon as it becomes available to you. I am interested in learning specific information about the pinks slips issued to certificated staff and lay-off notices given to non-certificated staff. The program and funding details of the cuts being proposed will be more difficult to share, but I would appreciate any level of detail you may be able to provide.
Please send this information to me in care of Craig Cheslog, Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Superintendent’s Initiatives Office, by e-mail at email@example.com, by fax at 916-319-0100, or by phone at 916-319-0554. You may also contact Mr. Cheslog if you have any questions or require additional information about this request.
In addition, I am interested in learning more about how the school districts in your jurisdiction are responding to the funding deferrals that have already occurred, and what the potential impact may be from those included in the budget package proposal.
I am also deeply concerned about how the pattern of deferrals has, in effect, led to our schools being used as a bank to cover the state’s ongoing fiscal problems.
I will be developing an estimate of the total cost of this borrowing to our school districts across the state. I want to share this information with the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and the general public.
Please ask the districts in your county to provide the latest information they can about how they are handling this situation—including interest costs, lost interest from use of reserve funds, time, cash-flow management, programs, etc.
You may also share the deferral information with Mr. Cheslog.
Thank you in advance for your help in compiling this information.