WHITTIER — High schools Supt. Lee Eastwood expressed disappointment at Gov. George Deukmejian's veto last week of a bill that would have given the district about $440,000 to lessen the financial burden created by declining enrollment.
The bill, passed by the Legislature in September, would have given nearly $13 million to 260 shrinking school districts in the state. Whittier Union High School District was slated to receive the largest chunk of the $1.7 million earmarked for districts in Los Angeles County.
"The reaction is one of disappointment," said Eastwood, whose district dipped by more than 5% this year to about 8,750 students. "The need is there," the superintendent said.
School districts in the state are funded according to the number of students enrolled. Eastwood and officials of other districts with dwindling enrollments argue that a decline in the student population does not produce a proportional decline in the cost of support services, energy and other district expenses.
Eastwood said he believes the Whittier district is experiencing a temporary decline in students. "Our demographics show that, in two years, we are going to turn around and begin to go back up."
Eastwood said it would be foolish for the district to close a school in hopes of saving money, only to have to open it again in the near future.
Eastwood said the district is facing a $600,000 deficit in its proposed budget of $41 million."We are down to the bone," he said. "The fat was cut out 10 years ago when Prop. 13 came in--if there was any fat, and I don't consider programs for children fat." Among other things, Proposition 13 limited the use of property taxes to finance education in the state.
Eastwood said the current method of funding districts is insensitive to local needs and conditions. "There's a degree of equity (in the current system), but there is no recognition of individual financial problems that exist in the school districts," he said.
The veto also affects the ABC Unified School District, which was slated to receive almost $113,000.