When it comes to year-round schools, Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed state budget contains few specifics and very little new money, but it sends a clear political message that the state's fiscally conservative chief executive wants California schools off the traditional summer-break calendar.
"We're not exactly sure of the specifics of this, but I think the message is clear: He wants us to move in that direction," Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, said last week.
"The governor has never taken such a strong position in use of facilities year-round. It's his boldest, strongest statement to date," said Charles Ballinger, executive director of the National Assn. for Year-Round Education.
Referring to a continuing explosion in school enrollment, Deukmejian in his State of the State address Monday proposed three steps pushing the state toward year-round schools.
Saying California schools cannot afford to "depend simply on building our way out of the shortage of classrooms," Deukmejian proposed increasing incentives to districts that switch to multitrack, year-round calendars that ensure that classrooms do not sit idle for weeks at a time.
His package also includes allocating slightly more money to reward districts that have multitrack, year-round schools and loosening requirements for voter approval of local bond measures to build year-round schools. He also proposed giving districts with year-round schools priority in tapping the state's pool of school construction funds, a plan similar to an existing law.
It is unclear what effect the governor's proposals will have on the Los Angeles Unified School District, where year-round schools are being hotly debated as the district struggles to cope with massive overcrowding. About 23% of the district's 610,000 students already attend year-round schools, contrasted with only 9% of students statewide.