YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

California and the West

$100 Million Earmarked for School Safety

Spending: Davis' budget proposal calls for hiring one new counselor at each high school, as well as implementing security measures recommended by police.


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis, dividing part of a $4-billion budget surplus, intends to earmark $100 million for school safety programs, including enough to hire high school counselors who might help steer students away from violence, an administration official said Wednesday.

The administration made the announcement as the governor works to revise his spending plan for the next fiscal year. Davis will unveil the revised budget Friday.

Davis will call on the Legislature to approve $42.5 million to allow school districts to hire one new counselor at each California high school.

The counselors' duties would include "conflict resolution," the official said. But no details were available on what that would mean.

Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin cited statistics showing that California ranks last in the nation in the number of counselors per student: one for every 1,052 pupils.

"There is a real dire need for more counselors," said Eastin's spokesman, Doug Stone. "Gov. Davis is moving real aggressively on school safety. This is a real solid beginning."

Davis also wants to make $42.5 million in grants to middle schools and high schools for safety improvements recommended by local police. The money might be spent for metal detectors, cameras and other security devices.

In addition, Davis will allocate $15 million to cover the costs of writing and updating school safety plans.

Altogether, the governor plans to add $600 million to schools beyond what he proposed when he released his preliminary spending plan in January, according to the administration official, who requested that he not be identified.

The additional spending means that public schools would receive about $26.3 billion from Sacramento in the 1999-2000 fiscal year. School spending accounts for more than 42% of the state's general fund.

Besides the $100 million for school safety programs, Davis is proposing $143.7 million for school repairs, such as fixing restrooms and leaky roofs.

Davis is earmarking an additional $40 million for grants to schools that increase parental involvement. To be eligible, schools would have to get parents to sign contracts promising to become more involved in their schools.

The administration official said details of the parental involvement grants would be worked out with the Department of Education.

The administration probably will release details of other spending initiatives today. Earlier this week, the Davis administration announced a $35-million boost for after-school programs at middle schools and elementary schools, and an additional $23 million for preschool programs.

Davis, who repeatedly has said education is his top priority, is able to pay for his school initiatives because the state's economy remains strong. With California's unemployment rate low, income tax payments are high.

As a result, the state will have a surplus estimated at $4 billion, budget experts believe.

However, Davis also must contend with unexpected costs, including several pending lawsuits brought by public schools and other entities.

One such case has been languishing for 20 years. It alleges that the state has failed to fully reimburse local schools for the cost of special education. The tab could be as high as $1.6 billion, and the plaintiffs--including Riverside County schools, and a state organization representing local school boards--are pressing for a settlement this year.

"Given that the state is about to have a major windfall, and given that this governor has said education is his first, second and third priority, here is an opportunity to settle up," said Owen Waters, of the Center for School Finance in Sacramento.

The administration official acknowledged that there "was quite a bit of leftover litigation." He said Davis will suggest ways of settling the cases on Friday.

Los Angeles Times Articles