Senate GOP Path is Better Deal for Education than Democrat Proposal

Monday, May 9, 2011

As demonstrators representing the California Teachers Association union converge on the Capitol for a full week of protesting instead of a full week of teaching, Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton today issued the following statement:

"General Fund revenues are anticipated to be higher than Governor Brown’s projected revenues in his January 2011 Budget.  Senate Republicans believe these additional revenues eliminate the need to reduce funding for education or local law enforcement.

Senate Republicans believe that protecting law enforcement and education should be the highest priority.  The Democrats should step up and join Republicans in defending the most vital services provided by state government, instead of giving raises and higher benefits to public employee unions, and doling out more money for big government welfare programs.

The public employee union, known as the California Teachers Association, clearly fails to understand that there is no budget plan that does more to protect education funding than the path proposed by a number of Senate Republicans.  That path to a bi-partisan budget solution includes a hard spending cap budget reform proposal that specifically protected Proposition 98 funding for schools.

The spending cap those Senate Republicans proposed ensures that schools get their full share of state revenues as guaranteed in the State Constitution, and provides that additional expenditures above the new spending limit must be used for specified purposes that include increased funding for schools (i.e., maintenance factor, settle-up, and repayment of deferred education funds). 

This proposed state spending limit would guarantee that education gets more funding than either of the state budgets proposed by the governor or legislative Democrats."

In addition to the spending cap, Senate Republicans also proposed pension reform and the following education reforms that would help ensure that excellent teachers are teaching our children and more taxpayer dollars are going to the classroom:

Teacher Seniority [Last in, First Out (LIFO) reform]: Right now, teachers are judged simply by their place in line.  Education reform that allows school districts to base teacher staffing decisions on teacher effectiveness and student needs, rather than being based on teacher seniority, is critical so that school districts can foster and retain quality teachers for our children.

Substitute Pay: Currently, school districts must pay laid off teachers at their old salary rate if they substitute for at least 21 days in a 60-day period. This flaw in the law costs school districts throughout California millions of dollars in high costs, resulting in districts having to lay off more teachers or cut other vital programs.  The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended this requirement be eliminated, noting, “it imposes a financial strain on districts by forcing them to hire the most expensive substitute teachers.”  In the Riverside Unified School District, for example, over five additional teachers had to be laid off this year to support the higher substitute teacher rates that must be paid.

March 15 deadline: Current law requires school districts to notify teachers of lay-off notices by March 15, which is well before the state typically adopts its budget and districts know how much funding they will receive. This arbitrary date forces districts to assume the worst budget scenario possible and over-notify teachers. The March deadline puts unnecessary cost pressures on school districts who are already facing budget shortfalls and struggling to meet students’ core educational needs.  The date also creates undue anxiety for teachers as many of the teachers who receive notices will not actually be let go.  Extending this deadline would give school districts more time to evaluate their budget situation and send out more accurate notifications.

Employee Dismissal for Cause: This reform would give governing boards more freedom and authority in making essential staffing decisions. School districts have found that the Commission on Professional Competence, as part of the certificated dismissal process, can unduly limit a local district’s ability to provide high quality staff in schools. Local school district governing boards have little authority over who works with the students they serve. Under current law, the decision of the Commission on Professional Competence is deemed to be the final decision of the governing board in regard to the termination of certificated staff.