La Jolla area schools superintendent set to discuss budget at Muirlands meeting

By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

Mike Price, area superintendent for La Jolla, University City and Kearny Mesa schools, will host an informational meeting on the district budget Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St.

Organized by the district, the meeting will focus on updating parents “on how we got to where we are now,” Price said Friday. He’ll also give a general overview of the budgeting process, but won’t talk about specific school issues.

“If the principals are there, I’ll defer to them. If not, we’ll make sure the questions are given to them,” he said.

Superintendent Bill Kowba’s message posted on the district website

, states that “While our new governor, Jerry Brown, came out strongly in favor of education in his budget message, the district is still expecting another year of cuts — possibly $120 million — to the 2011-12 general fund.”

Local principals have been asked to prepare their own spending plans before any decisions are made by the board, which is what’s happening now.

Price said it’s possible that La Jolla’s schools will be “hit just about as hard as others, or maybe a little less, but it’s still going to hurt."

The possibility for a smaller local impact of the budget crisis is that La Jolla does not have any magnet schools and the five schools in the cluster do not get any Title I funding that some schools get to assist lower-income students.

While some reports indicate that a number of teachers will be cut, he said it’s uncertain how those cuts would affect La Jolla.

John May, a member of the La Jolla Cluster Association — a group formed a year ago to advocate for the five local public schools — is well aware of the budget issues.

He also serves on the school site council at Torrey Pines Elementary School.

He said he’s pleased that Price is hosting Thursday’s meeting because “people have had tons of questions. “ It will be good, he added, to find out what’s going on from the viewpoint of someone who knows.

Making plans for cuts now, May added, makes sense.

“It’s a whole lot easier to add something later rather than go back in with chain saws,” he said.

May and Price both said the budget process for schools in California is backwards.

“They have to do a budget in detail without knowing how much is in the (state) budget,” May said. “Price explained that the district must present a balanced budget to the county schools superintendent on June 30. In the past, the state allocations for education have not been known until later, even though July 1 is the deadline for approving the state spending plan.

“Last year it was 100 days before we had the budget,” he noted. “Fortunately last year we guessed correctly.”



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