California's school-age population is booming again, and the implications that this growth holds for state fiscal and education policies are both staggering and challenging. As Gov. George Deukmejian and his staff prepare their education budget for next year, they should examine carefully the projections made this week in Sacramento by state and local school officials. When they do, they cannot help but conclude that standing still financially this year will in fact mean losing ground as more students flood into the system.
The children of immigrants and of the baby-boom generation will swell the school population by 140,000 students a year for the next six years, lawmakers were told Thursday at a special hearing of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig said this increase means that California needs 800 new schools and perhaps another university campus. That will cost $6.5 billion, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars required to operate the schools, pay teachers and buy books and other supplies.
As usual, Los Angeles faces one of the biggest burdens. James Murdoch, a consultant for the Los Angeles Unified School District, laid it out for the legislators. Not only is Los Angeles the biggest district in the state, he said, it is also the fastest-growing district in the entire country. By 1997, he said, city schools will have an additional 184,000 students to house. This means that the city would have to build about 92 elementary schools, 27 junior highs and 18 senior highs. To do so, Murdoch added, the city would have to buy 3,000 acres--that is, 5 square miles of land--inside the school district's boundaries. Land and construction would cost $4.6 billion.