I'm Just Sayin': Bracing for a budget massacre

Jerry Brown was sworn in as California's 39th governor on Monday and promised a "tough budget for tough times." He faces a whopping projected deficit of $28 billion for the next fiscal year.

His budget proposal is due to the Legislature in Sacramento by Jan. 10 and will likely have something in it for everyone to hate.

Any cuts to two of the biggest budget allocations, K-12 education and health and human services, would directly impact our family. Our children attend a Glendale Unified School District elementary school and our son is a client of a regional center, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities.

In December 2009, the National Education Assn. ranked California 43rd in per student spending at $8,322 per child, or less than half the $17,638 that No. 1 ranked District of Columbia spent, and well below the $10,190 national average. Do we really want to be dead last in spending?

On Dec. 14, the Glendale school board voted to put Measure S — the Quality Schools Protection Act — on the April ballot to extend the Measure K property tax assessment to fund facility improvements. While none of the money can be spent on teacher salaries, board members say "this measure is expected to provide approximately $20 million to help retain teachers, minimize increases in class sizes and protect quality instructional programs."

If this bond passes, let's pray that it can help to lessen the fiscal carnage that we'll see with whatever budget cuts are passed.

The parent-teacher associations of Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge are hosting a community forum on public education on Jan. 29 in Glendale. Among the topics are how California funds its schools and why we are struggling, and the latest budget from Sacramento. To register, go to http://www.ptaforum.info.

Larry DeBoer, president of Lanterman Regional Center's Board of Directors, sees changes ahead for their organization and states, "If we fail to seize this opportunity, we fear ever greater restrictions on eligibility, long waiting lists for service, continued stagnation and reduction of rates paid to service providers, greatly diminished service quality and, finally, the death of the entitlement."

Our son Josh greatly benefited from the multitude of therapies provided by Lanterman that he received in his first three years of life. I can't imagine where he would be today had he not had this early intervention. If the goal is to help kids become independent adults, then the money is certainly well spent.

In his inaugural remarks, Brown said, "In seeking the office of governor, I said I would be guided by three principles. First, speak the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No empty promises. Second, no new taxes unless the people vote for them. Third, return — as much as possible — decisions and authority to cities, counties and schools, closer to the people."

While I have my sacred cows that I want to protect, others will have theirs. There will be enough pain to go around and no one will be spared. That will be Brown's real truth.

SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at sharonchary@gmail.com.

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