Editors note: Guest columnist Phil Quon is the superintendent of the Cupertino Union School District. Quon attended a Education Budget Forum, where Gov.-elect Jerry Brown warned administrators that there would be more belt-tightening in the days ahead. Here, Quon talks about the quandary he's in—he needs to ensure that Cupertino education stays top notch even if he doesn't have as much money to spend on it as he did earlier. The community has been very supportive of CUSD and has approved parcel taxes and other measures to retain the best teachers and to keep class sizes low. The district is financially sound, but this message from the governor-elect might signal a need to return to the voters to ask for more money.
On Jan. 10, 2011, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown's budget proposal for the 2011-2012 fiscal year will be released to the public. More importantly, this event signals the beginning of the legislative process to deliver a balanced state budget by June 15, 2011.
Of course, we all know that this deadline has been missed for 23 of the past 24 years, and we have had state budgets approved as late as 100 days (October) past the statutory deadline. Will we see the rancor and finger pointing that traditionally accompanies this highly politicized process? Or will we see the new legislature working closely with the governor to deliver a timely budget?
At his Education Budget Forum that I attended at UCLA on Dec. 14, the governor-elect told us to "sit down when you read the budget proposal." He also stated that he would like the final budget for 2011-2012 approved within 60 days (an extremely tall order based on past practice.) So what does this all mean to the ?
As required by law, the Board of Education must adopt the CUSD 2011-2012 budget no later than June 30. This deadline has been met year in and year out by a responsible board and staff.
So we always get asked: "How can you put your budget together when the state can't get its act together?" The answer is that we have to make our best educated guess based on information we gather from the governor's proposed budget, the Legislative Analyst's Office and the various consulting agencies we work with. Of late, our adopted budgets had to be amended based upon what the state ultimately adopted. Is this any way to run a business? Absolutely not, and therein lies the frustration of operating a fiscally responsible school district, governed by education code that would make your head swirl, and ending the year in a fiscally positive position.
We open our doors each fall to the excited students and their parents who show up unaware of all of the work, which goes on behind the scenes. Last year (again dictated by education codes) we had to issue layoff notices to many of our outstanding employees (many of them in their first, second, or third year of teaching.) It was gut-wrenching to watch the mandatory process unfold along with the angst and turmoil of legal positioning between labor and management. Most jobs were saved for this year with the extraordinary collaborative combination of community donations ("Their Future Is Now"—$2.5 million) and staff agreed-upon furlough days (which generated an additional $2.5 million).
According to the latest budget numbers, 2011-2012 will be worse than this year. We are preparing our budget in anticipation of the full brunt of severe budget cuts to public education. Estimates for our shortfall range between $2 million and $8 million. Our staff is preparing budget scenarios based on these numbers and will present them to the public for input and ultimately board approval. All of the scenarios are ugly! Some of the solutions will be bitter pills to swallow. The only certainty is that we will do everything in our power to minimize layoffs, and, of course, keep our school doors open. That is our commitment to our community and to our employees. Without these employees, our educational services to children are diminished by their untimely release.
I hope that you will join me in our efforts to let the governor and state legislators know that public education should remain their highest budget priority and that more dollars (not less) need to be invested into the future of this state and its children. It would be extremely short-sighted to do otherwise. is one of the top rated districts in this state and the nation. I am proud to be its educational advocate-leader. Our collaboration gives us the strength to accomplish great things despite what happens around us. Please stay informed!
Wishing you a joyous holiday season with your family and friends.
Phil Quon is superintendent for the . He submitted this one-time article as a guest columnist to Cupertino Patch.