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California Budget a Mixed Bag for Public Education

K-12 education is spared—for now. It's another story for the state's public colleges and universities.

California's newly inaugurated governor, Jerry Brown, just released his proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, and it has both good and bad news for education. The good news? Brown says he won't slash any more funding from the state's already decimated K-12 education coffers. The bad? The state's community college and university system is about to feel the pain.

Over the past three years, K-12 schools have borne the brunt of California's education cuts. In a welcome change, Brown's budget "maintains funding at the same level as the current year." But, if the state's voters don't approve tax extensions, K-12 cuts will be back on the table later this spring.

Unfortunately, Brown's dramatic $12.5 billion spending cuts include chopping $1 billion total from both the University of California and California State University systems. Both currently receive about $2 billion each per year from the state. Another $400 million is also set to be axed from the state's community college system.

In 2010, budget cuts to higher education led to 32-percent fee increases at the University of California, where there were reduced course offerings and cuts in programs for lower income students. In response, students across the state organized sit-ins and protest marches.

One cut no one in California seems to be crying over is Brown's decision to eliminate the redundant office of Secretary of Education. The secretary position has served an advisory role for California's governors since Pete Wilson created the role in the 1990s. However, given that California already has a state Board of Education and a state Superintendent of Instruction, Brown said there's no need for the overlap of duties. Eliminating the secretary position saves the state $1.9 million.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user Steve Rhodes

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