After watching five of the state's six budget measures go down in flames Tuesday, local school administrators had one overarching response: Our schools and community colleges have a rough road ahead.
"We don't know the impact to us, but education is going to be hit substantially," said Joe White, associate superintendent of business services for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.
On Tuesday, school administrators agreed it was too early to tell exactly what the election results meant for local districts, which are still waiting to see how much will come from the federal stimulus package.
But even though uncertainty reigned, administrators were sure they would be crunching numbers through the summer in an effort to balance their budgets.
"Everyone thinks when they do the election projections at 8:03 p.m., we will know," White said. "We will not know for the longest time about the impacts." State politicians, he noted, "still have to pass a budget."
The results of the special election came as a blow to the state Legislature, which put Propositions 1A through 1F before voters in hopes of stabilizing California's troubled economy. Instead, voters defeated the first five measures by two-to-one margins.
California public schools have already been hit hard by budget cuts over the last several years, and Props 1A and 1B would have helped to refund $9.3 billion the state owes the schools. 1A would have set up a reserve, and 1B would have used this reserve to pay back money the state owes educational institutions.
Since the Legislature passed a budget in February, California has fallen ever-further into debt, and now suffers from an estimated $15 billion shortfall. But after to the rejection of the ballot measures, local school administrators said that number could grow to $21 billion, and worry that more than $5 billion could be cut from public schools and community colleges, depending on what the Legislature does next.
"These ballot measures are part of the budget solution," Andy Dunn, vice chancellor of business for Foothill-De Anza, said before the election results were known. "Community colleges and K through 12 are really facing some tough budget times."
White and Dunn said the deficit as it now stands could lead to cuts of $2 million from the high school district and $28 million from Foothill-De Anza.
As for the Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District, administrators wouldn't even hazard a guess, in part because the district just became a basic aid district, meaning that it will be primarily funded through property taxes. Craig Goldman, the district's chief financial officer, said administrators are still waiting to see what happens next.
The district does expect cuts to some of its preschool programs since California voters rejected a measure, Proposition 1D, aimed at changing the way the state funds social and educational programs for children under the age of 5.
In his May revise of the budget last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted more painful cuts in education, depending on election results. These cuts were targeted at revenue-limit districts, which are school districts receiving the majority of their funding from the state.
The state has not yet laid out cuts to basic aid districts, but they could face reductions in funds to special programs and to things like maintenance.