160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to boost school spending by $4.3 billion next year, adding money for everything from low-performing schools and physical education to arts and after-school programs, administration officials said Tuesday. In his proposed budget, to be released next week, Schwarzenegger will seek spending of $54.3 billion from the general fund and property taxes on education in kindergarten through community college, up 8 percent from the current year, the governor’s secretary of education, Alan Bersin, said. Including money from the federal government and other sources, the 2006-07 education budget would total $66 billion if approved by the Legislature. “Nothing is more important than education because how we prepare our children today will shape the California of tomorrow,” Schwarzenegger said in a written statement. Some leading members of the education community said Tuesday that they are glad to see the increase but believe the governor owes schools about $5.5 billion in back payments on Proposition 98 guarantees. Schwarzenegger is proposing to repay $1.67 billion in next year’s budget. “I would characterize the numbers the governor put forth as a down payment toward restoring the commitment that was made in his office two years ago,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “It’s a good beginning but should not be viewed as the end. If this amount does not increase above the initial budget, it will again shortchange our students.” The administration has an ongoing disagreement with the Education Coalition – representing teachers, parents and school administrators – about the amount still owed after Proposition 98’s minimum funding guarantees were suspended in 2004-05. Department of Finance officials say there should only be $1.3 billion left to repay if the $1.67 billion is approved in next year’s budget. But the differences stem from interpretations of Proposition 98, and whether funds that were suspended in one year should be included in the ongoing calculation of the base amount of what is owed in future years. The governor and Bersin met with members of the Education Coalition in Schwarzenegger’s office on Tuesday morning. Participants on both sides characterized the meeting as cordial, although they said they continue to disagree over the issue. “I think what’s important is that we acknowledge there are differences, but that we acknowledge what’s constructive and that the dialogue is a beneficial one and sets the stage for moving forward,” Bersin said. “I’m confident that the tone that you’ll hear is considerably different from what you’ve heard.” The governor’s proposed 2006-07 budget also will include, for the first time, full funding of $428 million in additional money for after-school programs under Proposition 49, the ballot measure then-private citizen Schwarzenegger helped pass in 2002. The measure was designed to set aside funding for after-school programs only after the state budget reached a certain level of fiscal soundness, which it has now achieved for the first time since the measure passed. Total after-school funding including the Proposition 49 money will reach about $550 million. Schwarzenegger is also proposing a series of new education initiatives: $100 million for low-performing schools. The block-grant funds for schools in the bottom one-third of performance can be used for a variety of purposes, such as recruiting teachers in subjects with the greatest teacher shortages and providing them with financial incentives, such as repayment of student loans, signing bonuses and mortgage relief. $100 million in block grants for arts and music programs in kindergarten through eighth grade. $85 million in grants for physical education in an effort to fight childhood obesity, including $25 million to help recruit physical-education teachers. $30 million – in addition to $20 million that was added last year – for career and technical education, as in building partnerships between community colleges and other schools. $20 million – for a total of $40 million – to help students prepare for the new state high school exit exams. Last month, administration officials disclosed that the governor also plans to boost higher-education spending by at least $140 million to postpone planned fee increases in the University of California and California State University systems, as well as to provide additional Cal Grant money in scholarships for students at private colleges. Education Coalition members said they hope to work with the governor and put aside some of last year’s rancor. But they also expressed concern that he is proposing to spend money on specific new programs before fully funding past-due amounts, particularly when some local school districts would rather spend the funds as they choose. “From the standpoint of the Education Coalition, everything the governor is proposing is desirable and maybe even necessary,” said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association. “But the problem is … the people I work for – the school board members – may have a different priority for every new dollar that’s coming in.” Some Los Angeles Unified School District officials reacted positively to Tuesday’s announcement, though they have yet to see all the details or how it would specifically affect LAUSD. “I’m encouraged that the governor is moving in the direction he ought to move,” LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer said. “This is a good place to start. He’s making up on the bargain we made before. “I believe this is a payment on what had been owed in the past, and I think he’s trying to do the right thing. It’s a step. It’s not the whole package, but it’s a part of it, and we appreciate it.” LAUSD school board member Mike Lansing said the governor’s proposal to target the lowest-performing schools and revive arts and physical education is crucial to improve student performance. “Arts and physical education have been left out of the equation because of the federal No Child Left Behind mandate,” Lansing said. “We can’t get kids in shape just by telling them not to drink Coke and eat pizza.” The Legislature has until June 30 to review and approve a budget for 2006-07. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said he was encouraged to hear the governor plans to increase funding for schools. “The governor has heard the powerful judgment of the voters to more adequately fund our schools,” Nunez said in a written statement. “I’m pleased he is proposing a significant down payment on the money they are owed under the agreement he made and the legislation we passed. “It is certainly a step forward, but it’s only one slice of the pie.” Staff Writer Naush Boghossian contributed to this report. Harrison Sheppard, (916)446-6723 email@example.com HIGHLIGHTS Here are highlights of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed education spending plan for 2006-07: Increase general fund spending by $4.3 billion, to $54.3 billion, for education in kindergarten through community college. With federal funds and other grants, total education spending will reach $66 billion. Per-pupil spending will be just under $11,000. Repay $1.67 billion owed to schools from previous suspension of Proposition 98. Spend $428 million on after-school programs, based on the 2002 ballot measure Proposition 49, which takes effect for the first time this year. Allocate $100 million for low-performing schools. Set aside $100 million for new K-8 arts and music programs. Provide $85 million for new physical-education programs. Add $30 million more for career and technical education and $20 million more to help students prepare for high school exit exams.