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  • Friday, March 10, 2006

     

    SPECIAL REPORT


    OUSD FUNDS ELEMENTARY MUSIC-
    IS GODLEY’S EXPLANATION GOOD ENOUGH?


    We didn’t finally find the money. It wasn’t hiding.It just came to us within the last two weeks.”
    -Orange Unified Superintendent
    Thomas Godley
    3/09/06 OUSD Board Meeting


    At the February 23rd Orange Unified School Board meeting, OUSD Trustees Kim Nichols, Kathy Moffat, Melissa Smith and Wes Poutsma voted to support OUSD Superintendent Thomas Godley’s call to eliminate the OUSD Elementary Music program next year. Trustees Rick Ledesma and Steve Rocco voted against the recommendation (Trustee John Ortega was absent). Two weeks after that vote, Godley announced at the March 9th OUSD Board meeting, based on new information from the California State Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) that there was indeed money to fund the music program for next year.

    The Thursday announcement to a capacity crowd capped two weeks of growing media attention and community pressure on the controversial OUSD Superintendent’s proposal to eliminate the music program. The Music Matters Committee, an offshoot committee of the Orange Education Foundation, had hired music budget expert John Benham to assist the community to find the funds within the OUSD budget. Music Matters also passed out flyers donated by Yamaha Cares to rally music supporters to the cause. The Orange Communication System (OCS) carried the story all weekend over its electronic networks and on Thursday March 9th, local print media carried the story. In addition, earlier in the week the story had spread from the OCS Greater Orange eBlog to the widely influential conservative OC Blog.

    At the February 23rd meeting, Godley and the supporting Trustees asserted that the real decision on keeping the music program would be made as part of the budget process to take place later this year. Godley and the Trustees that originally voted to eliminate the program made it clear several times that the vote was forced by Education Code timelines beyond their control and the fact that the budget was only in the early stages of formulation. Godley and his supporters also made it clear that because Governor Schwarzenegger budget proposals were just proposals, OUSD had to wait for the final budget before a final decision on the music program could be made. However, two weeks later the story had changed. With a required state Interim Financial Report also on the March 9th Agenda showing a current “unappropriated amount” of over eight million dollars, Godley stated that “We didn’t finally find the money. It wasn’t hiding. It just came to us within the last two weeks.” The overflow crowd burst into applause.

    Godley explained that the district learned from the California State Legislative Analyst Office the previous week that the district will receive enough funds for the music program and to continue 9th grade class size reductions in math and English classes. On close examination however, the Godley Explanation does not seem compatible with the purpose and mission of the LAO or the concerns raised by Godley and the OUSD Trustees at the March 9th meeting.

    On Tuesday March 7th , Music Matters Committee activist Angel La Marca and a group of parents met by invitation with OUSD Trustees Kim Nichols and Melisa Smith at the Anaheim Hills church where Smith is a pastor. Smith, who at the February 23rd meeting had called for a “compromise” which no one would get everything they wanted regarding the music program, now was telling La Marca and the parents that something was being worked out. Smith did not elaborate. That meeting took place two days before the Thursday March 9th OUSD Board meeting, and a week after the week Godley stated he had received news from the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO). However, when you inspect the reports issued by the LAO, it is not clear to what Godley is referring.

    The LAO is a non-partisan fiscal and policy advisor to the California Legislature that functions similarly to the Congressional Budget Office for Congress. The LAO mission is to analyize proposed budget issues. It then issues recommendations and analytical reports for the California State Senate and Assembly on the proposals. On February 23rd it issued its report on the proposed budget of Governor Schwarzenegger. The reports cover all of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposals. The reports concerning budget proposals for K-12 education analyze the proposals and make recommendations to the legislature based on the LOA analysis. In fact, in the February 23, 2006 LAO report titled Analysis of the Budget Bill (Major Analyses) Education K-12; New Categorical Programs, the LAO recommends “rejecting these seven proposals”. The seven programs include Schwarzenegger’s proposal for Art and Music funding. The LAO recommends the legislature reject the Arts and Music proposal and six others (Teacher Recruitment; Teacher Support; two Physical Education proposals; Digital Classroom; and Fresh Start nutritional program) because the seven proposals:

    “(1) do not address the major fiscal issues facing the state or school districts; (2) take a step backwards for categorical reform; (3) have basic policy flaws; and (4) contain virtually no planning, reporting, evaluation, or accountability components.” (see link below to report).

    The report continues to criticize the new programs as “not critical” with a focus on: “narrow issues while leaving major issues unaddressed”. The report further criticizes Schwarzenegger’s spending proposals as having “basic flaws” and used the proposed funding for the Arts and Music program as an example.

    In another LAO report issued on February 23, 2006 titled K-12 Education Issues In the 2006-07 Budget, the report states about Schwarzenegger’s proposals:

    “We estimate an additional $359 million is needed to fully fund school districts and community college baseline budgets”.

    The report explains the additional money is needed due to:

    “our [LOA] higher projected cost-of-living adjustment- 5.8% compared to the [Schwarzenegger] budget’s 5.2%”.

    This LOA report also asks an additional $39.4 million to fully fund “ongoing K-12 mandates in 2006-07”. The report makes alternative budget recommendations in three options to the Legislators (1) Use one-time funds to pay for past mandates; (2) Limit Discretionary Spending, address K-12 Fiscal condition (3) A Fiscal Solvency Block Grant. In addition, the report makes seven recommendations on addressing K-12 Mandates and recommends repealing Proposition 49 After School Programs, giving 8 lengthy reasons why (see link to report below).

    Nothing in the LOA reports on education can be construed as giving school districts a green light as to what the final budget will look like. The mission of the LAO is to analyze early proposals. These reports intended for the legislators should signal that the budget process ahead will be anything but predictable. Even if the reports supported the Schwarzenegger’s proposal wholeheartedly, it would not diminish the concerns expressed by the Trustees as explanations for their votes to eliminate the music program. Nor would the LAO reports quell any of the concerns Godley expressed about the budget process. If anything, the LAO report should probably be of concern to most school district superintendents, unless of course they were sitting on a healthy $ 8 million dollar surplus.

    Analysis of the Budget Bill (Major Analyses) Education K-12; New Categorical Programs
    http://www.lao.ca.gov/Pubdetails.aspx?id=1449
    and http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis_2006/education/ed_05_anl06.html

    K-12 Education Issues In the 2006-07 Budget
    http://www.lao.ca.gov/handouts/Education/2006/Analysis_022306.pdf

    Link to all recent LOA publications:
    http://www.lao.ca.gov/

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