Last week, California governor Gavin Newsom released his May Revision to the proposed budget for for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Because of a $54 billion deficit associated with revenue loss due to COVID-19 shutdowns, there are significant cuts to education, a harsh blow for the city of Long Beach, where the Long Beach Unified School District, California State University at Long Beach, and Long Beach City College are three of the six largest employers.
“The May Revise is the expected gut punch for education,” tweeted LBUSD Board of Education member Megan Kerr after its release.
Education officials had been bracing for reductions as large as 20% for this year, but it looks more likely that the state will cover half of the losses, which will still likely result in a budget cut of around 10%.
LBUSD Public Information Officer Chris Eftychiou said that the budget process would be ongoing, and that the LBUSD has already begun proactively looking through its budget for places to cut. One challenge for the school district is they likely won’t get a final budget number for the upcoming school year until early to mid-August, just weeks before Fall instruction is scheduled to begin, on Sept. 1.
The district has also put on a hiring freeze, requiring current superintendent Chris Steinhauser to review any potential hires.
“It’s going to be hard, and people should be worried,” said Chris Callopy, the Executive Director of the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the union representing the LBUSD’s teachers, the largest workforce in the city. “How worried people should be is hard to know for a couple of months…but people should be very alarmed.”
Callopy pointed out that the budget numbers are being based on estimates of what the tax receipts will be on the revised tax deadline of July 15, a difficult number to pinpoint given the historic shutdown of most of the state’s economic engines in March.
“There’s still kind of a shot in the dark in terms of what the state will actually take in,” he said.
At CSULB, president Jane Close Conoley expressed frustration with the upcoming budget cuts as her university hasn’t yet been restored to its pre-Great Recession funding levels. A certain amount of funding per student for K-12 education is guaranteed by the state’s constitution. Since that’s not true for the CSU and UC systems, they’re technically earmarked as “discretionary” funding.
“It’s a big worry,” said Conoley. “We’re planning for a five percent reduction in our spending in July as a preparation for a possible mid-year cut.”
Conoley said the university was bracing for cuts that could reach as high as $89 million–a sizable portion of the roughly $500 million total budget. To give a sense of how significant a cut that would be, the entire athletic department at the university has a roughly $20 million budget.
Athletic Director Andy Fee said that he worries about the looming cuts not just because of its impact on his family and profession, but because of the potential catastrophic effects down the road.
“My wife is a teacher, we’ve got a lot of teachers in this city,” he said. “We need to resource those teachers. Not just for their sakes, but if we want to have a future that has leaders and champions. These young people have to continue on through this to make the world a better place.”
As of right now, the university isn’t yet planning on cutting any sports or major programs–but those cuts to both services and jobs may be coming from the kindergarten level all the way up through higher education in Long Beach if the budget picture remains bleak.