The Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating story today about which services are threatened and which will go untouched in the state’s budget crisis.

Millions of dollars in state spending are locked into programs that can’t be cut, after voters approved them as ballot initiatives, the Times reports. One example is a half-billion dollar after-school initiative passed in 2002, which provides funds for extracurricular activities. The Times’ beginning paragraph said it well:

The state is about to pump half a billion dollars into teaching children to roll sushi, juggle pins and master new dance forms, even as spending cuts threaten to erode instruction in reading, math and other fundamentals. That’s because the sum scheduled to be spent on such after-school enrichment next year is off-limits for anything else. State law dictates that cooking classes continue even if some calculus courses could be canceled.

In San Diego Unified, staffers refer to “colors of money” when explaining why schools have plenty of money for some programs, but little for others — and why the money can’t be transferred when budgets drop. Untangling the labyrinthine nature of California school spending to give schools more flexibility was one recommendation of a governor’s commission of education that included locals Dede Alpert and Randolph Ward.

As schools begin to figure out what services will be cut, I’d be interested to hear from folks inside and outside the schools about how restrictions on spending are tying their hands — and the resulting paradoxes. Feel free to contact me by clicking on my name below or giving me a call at 619.325.0525.

EMILY ALPERT

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