‘Hey, he terminated school money!’

Educators may feel like suckers for trusting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they’re angry suckers.

A coalition of teachers, administrators and classified employees gathered April 19 to blast Schwarzenegger for going back on a handshake deal he brokered with the California Teachers Association. Educational groups agreed to give up $2 billion entitled for K-12 schools in 2004-05 via Proposition 98 in exchange for the governor’s promise to return that money once state revenues went up.

They did, but he didn’t.

Schwarzenegger says the state can’t afford to live up to the deal without stripping needed funds for health care and other public services from the 2005-06 budget. Not only that, he’s pushing an amendment to Prop. 98 that would stretch $4 billion in back payments over 15 years and exclude that money from the new “base” amounts from which new disbursements are calculated.

The Education Coalition, which includes as members the major school board, administrator, employee and parent organizations, sent a delegation to Chico and is urging citizens to oppose the governor’s budget proposal and to boycott the petition that would put his Prop. 98-changing “Live Within Our Means” initiative on the ballot.

Schwarzenegger, in what the coalition calls a “numbers fudge,” contends that schools are getting more dollars this year—$2.9 billion more to K-12 schools and community colleges.

“We want the governor to know that he has broken promises to the schools,” said Ann Hayes, 13th District PTA president. His budget “takes even more money away from schools next year.”

The press conference was not held in front of Jay Partridge Elementary School by coincidence. That’s one of the two campuses the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees last month voted to close.

CUSD Assistant Superintendent Kelly Staley said that the district has lost $9.3 million over the last two years—its share of $9.8 billion in K-12 schools cuts statewide. “Chico has already been hit hard,” she said. “We cannot withstand future cuts.”

Schools throughout California have already suffered layoffs and elimination of class-size reduction, electives, supplies, after-school programs and extracurricular activities.

“Sacramento is not solving the problem. The governor’s leadership has failed,” said CUSD Trustee Rick Rees. “We’re down to bone, [and] we can’t do it anymore.”