Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R-Redlands) defended Gov. George Deukmejian's budget proposal for public education in his article (Editorial Pages, Jan. 26), "Governor Keeps Emphasis on Education." However, Leonard failed to detail the governor's plans.
The governor claims that 55% of his budget is for public education; but this includes funds for the University of California, the California State University, and the community colleges. Schools teaching kindergarten through 12th grade will receive less than 39% of the state budget.
When the governor proudly hails the increase in school funding since the deficit crisis of 1982-1983, he should also admit that this increase did not raise per-student funding in California even to the mid-point of what the other states are doing for public schools. Allowing for inflation, the governor now proposes to cut per-student spending.
Assemblyman Leonard claims that the elimination of low-priority programs is exciting, but he fails to name those programs. One program being cut provides educational services to gifted students, the best source of leaders for our nation's future.
Obviously, the assemblyman never sat as a school board member before a crowd of angry parents of gifted students to explain that the state allocates more than $40 for students with learning disabilities for every $1 allocated to gifted students. Now, even that $1 will disappear. We do not need this kind of excitement!
Leonard attacks "bureaucratic overhead" as wasteful, but says nothing about wasteful state mandates that really have little to do with education. The governor's budget will eliminate more than $15 million in the state's reimbursement for those mandates but will not eliminate the mandate themselves. What are these mandates?
For example, the Legislature decided that parents should have fingerprint records of their children, and schools were mandated to establish fingerprinting programs. The governor is eliminating funding for this program. Fingerprinting of children--definitely not an instructional program--will still continue and thus divert funds away from classroom instruction.
Note that, by mandating fingerprinting, the Legislature decreed that this has a higher priority than education for gifted students, which is not mandated.
To offset an inadequate state budget for public schools, the governor points to revenues from the state lottery. He even includes those lottery revenues in his budget to make the figures look better. This is a fraud! The voters said that lottery revenues were to supplement state spending on education while the governor clearly intends to supplant state appropriations with lottery funds that are actually beyond his authority to budget.
In any case, lottery revenues--declining sharply despite the new lotto games--are far too small to bring California to the national mid-point of state funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education. Lottery revenues do not even cover the utility bills--gas, water, and electricity--at most schools.
DAVID E. ROSS
Ross is president of the school board of the Oak Park Unified School District. His letter reflects his opinion and does not represent the position of the district or its elected school board.