Ditch the school re­serve cap

It’s not just dis­tricts com­plain­ing about the state med­dling with their fi­nances. It’s bad pol­icy.

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY OPINION - espite broad

Dbi­par­ti­san sup­port, leg­is­la­tion to re­peal an oner­ous cap on school dis­trict re­serve funds didn’t have much of a chance in the Demo­crat-con­trolled Cal­i­for­nia Leg­is­la­ture. The bill by As­sem­bly­woman Catharine Baker (R-San Ra­mon) died in the Assem­bly Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee faster than you can say “op­posed by the Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers Assn.”

But good ideas with broad sup­port have a way of per­sist­ing, even in the toxic en­vi­ron­ment of par­ti­san pol­i­tics. The re­peal bill may be dead, but in its place is a new cam­paign — backed by school dis­tricts, the state PTA, the League of Women Vot­ers, ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy groups and oth­ers — to “mod­ify” the cap in or­der to get Democrats on board. Hey, if that’s what it takes to re­lax the ir­re­spon­si­ble rule that pro­hibits schools from sock­ing away ex­tra cash dur­ing boom years, that’s fine with us.

That’s how things go in the Capi­tol some­times. But the new ver­nac­u­lar has so far im­proved the prospects for a leg­isla­tive fix to the cap this year.

In a let­ter to Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les) and Assem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) in early June, 26 Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors said they sup­port mod­i­fy­ing the cap be­cause of its dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects on the abil­ity of school dis­tricts to save for un­fore­seen cap­i­tal ex­penses and on their credit rat­ings. “Mod­i­fi­ca­tion” was not de­fined ex­plic­itly, but the let­ter did sug­gest that it would in­clude lift­ing the cap to a work­able level. If not a re­peal, then sup­port­ers want a cap high enough that it wouldn’t be a bur­den.

And they should have it. This is not just a case of school dis­tricts com­plain­ing about the state med­dling with their fi­nances. It’s bad pol­icy. The Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst’s Of­fice con­cluded as much in a Jan­uary re­port that said the re­serve cap puts the state’s school dis­tricts in fi­nan­cial jeop­ardy and ought to be re­moved. And re­strict­ing the amount school dis­tricts can save is an­ti­thet­i­cal to ev­ery­thing the gover­nor has done to em­power them to use their money as they see fit.

Teach­ers unions are pretty much the only fans of a limit on re­serve funds, be­cause it stops school dis­tricts from hold­ing on to money that might oth­er­wise be left on the bar­gain­ing ta­ble dur­ing con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions. The cap was passed by the Leg­is­la­ture last year, and was seen as a bone to get teach­ers unions’ sup­port for Propo­si­tion 2, the state’s rainy day fund.

Pro­po­nents think they can find a leg­isla­tive ve­hi­cle for chang­ing the cap as early as this sum­mer. Gov. Jerry Brown may be open to sign­ing what­ever leg­is­la­tion re­sults from a deal, even though he sup­ported the cap last year. In Jan­uary, Brown said his ad­min­is­tra­tion was aware of the con­cerns about the cap and would “en­gage in a di­a­logue” in the com­ing months. Those months have come and gone, and it’s time for more than talk. Re­peal — or at least mod­ify — the school re­serve cap.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.