Kudos to the California Budget Project! The nonpartisan nonprofit just issued a report dissecting the budget proposal issued on New Year’s Eve by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is simple enough for the Average Joe or Jane to understand the basics of the plan, but it mentions enough specifics for nerds like me — and possible you.

Here are some of its most important points on the K-12 education front:

  • The overall edu-funding in the governor’s plan is 5.3 percent below the minimum funding that would be mandated if Proposition 98, which establishes minimum funding levels for schools, were still in place.
  • The plan would cut revenue limit funding — the bread and butter of California schools that is based on local property and state taxes — by $1.6 billion.

To put that figure in perspective, San Diego Unified budgeted about $645 million in revenue limit funding this year. The budget gurus in the school district tell me you can generally translate a statewide cut into a San Diego Unified cut by multiplying it by 2 percent, so a $1.6 billion cut could end up costing San Diego Unified roughly $32 million.

That is a very, very rough estimate done on the back of my notebook, so please take it with a few grains of salt. The 2 percent is basically a population-based estimate and the impact of any programmatic cut differs depending, in part, on how many students rely on it. But it does give you a sense of just how deep these cuts could go.

  • Schwarzenegger would also defer payments for revenue limit and for class size reduction, a major program, by several months to buy time for the state.
  • Other educational programs that serve specific populations will also be cut, including a $48.5 million cut in Economic Impact Aid that is targeted to schools with lots of English learners and kids from low-income families.

Using the 2 percent formula — again with a grain of salt — that would likely be more than a $970,000 cut for San Diego Unified, which budgeted just shy of $20 million in Economic Impact Aid in its general fund last year. It would probably pencil out to an even deeper cut because San Diego Unified has a high percentage of English learners and would likely be disproportionately hit by any cuts to programs targeted to them.

  • To ease the sting, Schwarzenegger also wants to lift all educational mandates — stuff that schools have to do — except for spending related to the high school exit exam and students transferring from school to school. And schools will get “complete and permanent flexibility” on funds that normally come with lots of strings attached that limit how they can be spent. This point deserves some more explanation. Look for more on flexibility early next week.

You can read the full breakdown from the California Budget Project here.

EMILY ALPERT

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