A budget-related bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday has sparked a division within the education community as school districts push to reverse new protections for teachers.
Lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 114 in the final 45 minutes of the legislative session Tuesday night. The bill protects teachers from further layoffs in the new fiscal year.
It also requires districts to ignore the possibility they could lose $1.5 billion in classroom funding in December as well as $248 million in school bus money.
Teachers say those protections ensure stability through the school year. District officials say those requirements restrict their ability to plan for a midyear reduction. They are also frustrated by the suspension of requirements that districts show how they balance their budgets for three years.
Two groups that represent school districts put their concerns in writing, sending letters last week to Brown.
School Services of California, which advises districts on fiscal matters, called the budget unstable and said that AB 114 "adds insult to injury by gutting these critical fiscal oversight provisions."
The California School Boards Association urged the governor to clean up the bill with subsequent legislation and suggested it may consider legal action against the state for possibly underfunding Proposition 98 through a sales tax shift to counties.
Many school officials believe that underlying AB 114 was the possibility that the California Teachers Association might have challenged the state if lawmakers had not protected teachers and offered to repay schools $2.1 billion in future years.
Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare issued a letter Thursday that agreed with CSBA's complaints. She did not say whether she would propose legislation to roll back the bill, though any GOP attempt would likely fall flat since the two parties did not work together on the budget.
Not all school fiscal representatives were angry. Veteran schools lobbyist Kevin Gordon said, "If it was what was necessary to get us a budget without cuts in (funding) to schools this year, in the entire context of what we've been through, this is language we need to live with."
Democratic leaders who crafted the budget downplayed the concerns.
Brown said in his signing message that districts should "take all reasonable steps to balance their budgets and to maintain positive cash balances."
While AB 114 requires districts to assume they will get the same funding they did last fiscal year, he suggested they could still make cuts if short on funding for other reasons.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, embraced the bill during a Senate floor session. "If the charge is that we went out of our way to avoid (having) more teachers lose their jobs and avoid class size increases, guilty as charged," he said.