Governor Jerry Brown visited science classrooms at Hart High School today before meeting with a select group of 150 educators and public safety officials in the school’s cafeteria to talk about the budget.
The stop was part of Brown’s statewide campaign to push his proposal of extending existing tax rates to cover California’s fiscal shortfall.
Despite online notices that protests would be held in front of the school during Brown’s visit, less than 20 protestors showed up to wave signs and shout at the arriving delegation. Students reacted to the governor’s visit as a small inconvenience in a normal school day.
“At the state capitol we have to deal in a very general way various cities and school districts from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. Each decision we make has very concrete, very real ramifications,” Brown said. “We are facing some real budget challenges. It’s been going on for several years and it’s not isolated to Santa Clarita.
“How we get through that is the task,” he continued. “In proceeding, it’s important that the people know exactly what the choices imply. Sometimes because of the lack of credibility on the part of elected officials, people are rather skeptical of what we have to say and that’s why I think it’s very important that you get a chance to speak from your own knowledge.”
Sharing the dais with Brown were State Budget Director Ana Matosantos, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, California Probation Chief Donald Blevins and Interim L.A. County Superintendent John Gundry.
In the audience were a sea of educators, not just Hart district administrators, but members of all local school boards, some teachers and selected students, local government officials and high-ranking members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, LAPD and the L.A. County Fire Department.
Brown and Matosantos presented a quick Power Point that explained where tax monies go, showing that the majority of state revenue goes to education, with health and human services getting the next highest percentage.
The governor said that in years past, the façade of a balanced budget was just that.
“Kicking the can down the road, gimmicks or smoke and mirrors, you choose,” Brown said, referring to budgets that were promoted as balanced by previous administrators.
“We started with a $26.6 billion budget and we have $14.0 billion in cuts voted on by the legislature,” Brown explained. “That leaves us only $13.0 billion to go. That’s a lot.”
“Here we are the richest state in the richest nation in the world and we can’t agree on the basis,” he said, referring to partisan bickering that was contributing to the fiscal impasse. “As we make government lean and efficient, let’s not take it out on the kids.”
After some prepared statements from the panelists, Brown listened intently to presentations from the audience. Teachers union representative and Hart instructor Brian Breslin pointed out that students couldn’t understand why, if they were taught diversity and working together, those same principles couldn’t apply in making a budget compromise in Sacramento or Washington.
Newhall Superintendent Mark Winger outlined the cuts his district had already made and offered the district schools as examples of how more could be done with less if it would help avoid further cuts to education. Joe Messina, who serves on the Hart District Board, brought questions from listeners to his radio show and those submitted by social networkers, adding the issue of illegal immigration to Brown’s “to do” list. Messina said that the amount of money taken from the system by the unsolved federal problems should drive Brown to step up and ask for more immigration reform before it drained even more from state coffers.