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Pat Shaw Retirement Comes as Future of CA Education is on Ballot

Retiring Santee School District Superintendent Pat Shaw discusses the state of education funding as he leaves in October.

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By the time the ballots are counted on the morning of November 7, Santee School District will be a week into the next part of his life- but he’ll definitely be watching the results, as will every public educator in California.

Shaw’s last day at the helm of our school district is October 31. By then, he’ll have transitioned his replacement into his office and be off to South America, Europe and Asia.

His replacement, whoever that turns out to be, may be left with a serious to run the district.

There are two competing measures on the ballot to fund our schools.

One is Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s last-gasp tax hike to stave off five-and-a-half BILLION dollars in cuts to schools and higher education, which would start to happen immediately.

The other is Proposition 38- Los Angeles civil rights lawyer Molly Munger’s measure to send most of California’s money to schools and Early Childhood Education.

If both measures are approved by voters, the one getting the most yes votes would prevail.

The direst possibility: The Brown tax measure fails, the Munger measure wins, but raises taxes on everyone and doesn't go into effect until 2017 at the earliest, barring court challenges- and there would be court challenges.

Shaw said Brown's measure will cut the already lean budget deep into the bone.

“We spend about $4,700 a year for each student in our district. If the governor’s pre-programmed cuts go into effect after the tax losses, it could cost us as much as $457 dollars a year, per student, from the state. That would mean we’d have to start looking at cutting a lot of stuff- and 85 percent of our annual budget is in personnel costs,” he said.

The only ways to cover that loss of state funding are not pleasant to contemplate, and not easy to accomplish.

“We could have to do away with two or three weeks of school, and that would mean trying to get through a year’s curriculum in a much shorter time," Shaw said. "We would have to go to our unions and ask them if they’d be willing to accept pay cuts, and that’s never easy. We might have to do all of the above.”

You can argue until the cows come home about how California got into this condition. Pat Shaw isn’t going there- it is what it is.

Public education is a non-profit business. You hope to be able to break even, but even that hasn’t happened in living memory.

Shaw sees a small- very small- ray of light about .

While we’re still dealing with the stiff, and ever-increasing, demands of the federal government about that, there is at least an exception available to soften the blow on schools that don’t quite meet the requirements.

“It’s called Safe Harbor,” Shaw said.

“It’s a method that will allow the overall performance of students to be judged. There may be enough students meeting and surpassing the demands of the Feds ghat the averages will bring the entire group into overall compliance. It might help.”

As for the repeal of NCLB altogether, that’s still an option, and one that President Obama pretty much backs.

But that repeal or reform process would have to be accomplished by the same Congress that put it into effect in the first place.

You may have noticed the Congress people have other things on their minds lately, more important to them than revisiting an educational idea that might actually help kids learn better and faster.

Probably a good idea right now- we certainly wouldn’t want our children to learn how Congress actually works, now, would we?

They’d never get a good night’s sleep again.

Most of their parents are already sleepless over it.

Read more by Doug Curlee

Doug Curlee August 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
sure they can.. but that leaves the schools in the same place.. broke, and about to get broker.. doug
Kevin George August 20, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Just checking.
Don August 21, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I find it very hard to vote myself a tax increase for schools when the same mis-managing group in Sacremento are just going to do the same thing and come back agian threatening to cut funding, which they have been doing for many years. They promise to fund the schools but always fall short. Our schools have been providing education to special need children for years without the full funding promised by the state, it is an unfunded burden our schools have had to perform with the broken promises of funding by the state. I refuse to give the state more money until they finally clean up their own mess. I will vote no on both and yes on 32!!!!
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