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Public education in California faces perilous 'funding cliff'

The billions of federal stimulus dollars helping fund public education in California represent a double-edged sword.

There is no question that the funds have helped California's public schools avert fiscal disaster.

But it also means that in a very short period of time, the money will run out – in the case of colleges and universities, by next August – and when that happens, the state’s education institutions could find themselves falling into an even deeper financial abyss than they are in now.

Educators have worried for a long time about this "funding cliff," which is steeper, and higher in California than almost every other state.

That’s because California, with its massive size, has qualified for more stimulus funds than any other state. Because of California’s ongoing budget deficits, the state is also more dependent on the stimulus funds than almost any other state.

Just nailing down the exact size of California's funding cliff is a challenge because of the complexities of the state's budgeting process.

According to an analysis by Education Week, California's K-12 schools face one of the largest funding cliffs, which the analysis placed at $5.15 billion. This figure represents the gap between how much the state gave to schools in the 2007-08 fiscal year and how much it is contributing now.

The analysis points out that the “gaps have been filled to a great extent by federal State Fiscal Stabilization Fund monies,” but that, the "money runs out in the next two years.” Only Oregon and North Dakota face a larger cliff than California.

These figures are similar to those in a January 2010 report from EdSource, which points out that California's school's suffered a $5.7 billion reduction in state funds between the 2007-08 and the 2009-10 school year, due to Proposition 98.

The loss of those funds were offset by a $3 billion increase in federal funds. As a result, the schools "only" suffered a loss of $2.7 billion in direct state funding – about $470 per child. Funding from other sources, such as local property taxes, declined by another $1.7 billion, according to EdSource.

As for higher education, the UC and CSU each received $268.5 million in 2008-09 and expect to receive $448 million in federal State Fiscal Stabilization Funds for the 2009-2010 school year. Individual campuses will also receive additional hundreds of millions in research and infrastructure grants, according to figures supplied by the UC's Office of the President and the CSU Chancellor's Office.

“If these funds are not replaced in California, it is conceivable that nearly half of all the state budget reductions were concealed or masked through state stabilization funds,” wrote F. King Alexander, president of Cal State Long Beach in an article titled “The Second Fiscal Crisis: Preparing for the Funding Cliff.”

An analysis by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found that most states will use all their stimulus funds by the end of the 2010 fiscal year. “States and their public colleges and universities face a potentially severe funding cliff in as little as 12 months,” wrote AASCU director Daniel Hurley.

Community colleges constitute the one sector of California's struggling public education system that may be relatively protected from the funding-cliff problem. The colleges received very little stimulus funds to begin with – some $35 million  (instead of the $130 million they had been expecting).

But knowing they will have to replace a smaller pot of stimulus funds than the other education systems in California provides little comfort to community college leaders. 

They are having to cope with massive state budget cuts totalling $840 million over two years, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. The federal dollars they receive will barely make a dent in offsetting that daunting total.  

“We in higher education may not have been killed with a lethal blow, but we have been wounded with a thousand cuts,” Chancellor Jack Scott lamented at a legislative hearing last December.

There are many in public education who feel exactly the same way.

Filed under: K–12, Higher Ed, Daily Report

Comments

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jonepayoul's picture
Funds for California Community colleges should be increased ... Government should look at these issue ... $35 million , where the expectation was near $130 million , isn't a good fund for California Community colleges ...
Filtered Info's picture
One might think that a budget and cash crisis of the size that now faces this state. The state's Rubik's cube system of education funding might be unscrambled, The conclusion: California is often on the edge of fiscal cliff. In fact, our perilous finances and unstable governing system. Filtered Info
jackkalus's picture
California Community Colleges (CCC) provide instruction to about 1.6 million students (fall headcount enrollment) at 109 colleges operated by 72 locally governed districts throughout the state. The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education and existing statute charge the community colleges with carrying out a number of educational missions. The system offers academic and occupational programs at the lower division (freshman and sophomore) level, as well as recreational courses and precollegiate basic skills instruction.
Clyde's picture
I don't know how the californian government will eradicate their debt problem. Every media in the world is talking about the very difficult economic situation in california and the billions of federal bank is giving to the state. In fact, the debt of the state is increasing everyday and I don't think your Governor is the best person to help resolving the crisis. Where is the solution ? A socialist country ? Comment devenir riche
martinrussel's picture
The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education and existing statute charge the community colleges with carrying out a number of educational missions.well what to say more.over all i am not satisfied with the results.
alinacooper's picture
funding cliff have always been very dangerous and liable to subside. I am worried about it . anyway after it How refreshing to see the female fashions with Halloween costumes of sci-fi cinema (a worthy subject for any film or fashion student's thesis) handledin such a tasteful manner with no sign of tacky "phwoar!" lads' mag numbskull talk in California .
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There are so money issues in the state of California. These cuts from the schools are so bad to see. This is where we do not make the cuts. I do not understand this. Senior Dating
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I think education is a pretty delicate subject but as important as healthcare nevertheless. If we don't change something right now we could be facing a lot of problems in the near future. Don't you agree ?
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Team Obama can and will "question" every bad story's connection to their policies, but voters have already connected the dots on the dismal employment picture to the growth-destroying "stimulus," and now the arrival of rate hikes and benefit cuts as fall insurance season rolls around will rightfully be tied directly to the president's and the Congressional Democrats' crazed attempt to remake the medical world in their "vision." Obama-Pelosi-Reid own everything that goes wrong with health care at every level every day sales letter software
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The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education and existing statute charge the community colleges with carrying out a number of educational missions. bunk beds
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The education has really gone downhill over the last five to 10 years in California. Too may bad decisions have left schools cutting many after school programs as well as cramming too many kids in a room which makes learning difficult. Free Article Directory
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The school systems in CA continue to get worse, I was amazed at how many fights there were in our local high school with races involved despite having the most diverse mix of students than any other state, such a shame. Baby Cribs
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jennypear's picture
School systems in CA will continue to deteriorate, we can not go further cuts in schools. They fight too much, and it must stop. logo design
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The cuts are only going to get worse, especially in CA where the budget is a mess. Nice to hear Obama say talk about getting rid of under performing students, but when schools keep losing funding, how can you attract better teachers? Permanent Hair Removal
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If you want a good education in California, the only option that you really have is to go the way of the private schooling. Garage Cabinets
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Let me note some pointed comments
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"But it also means that in a very short period of time, the money will run out – in the case of colleges and universities, by next August – and when that happens, the state’s education institutions could find themselves falling into an even deeper financial abyss than they are in now." In view of the concerns expressed in the post, it is hoped that the government or for that matter, all concerned would do the needful to avoid the situation actually happening. Thanks. jeff cavaliere bio
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As mentioned in another article, many of the educational facilities may very well end up in private sector hands. Perhaps that will be the only way to find a balance that both can maintain quality and standard.
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Money is wasted in financing for wars and sending soldiers to the middle east. What we really need to focus on is our education which continue to become poor in quality because it's not properly funded. They should learn how to listen and know what this country really needs.
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