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New Calif. Schools Chief Calls For Investment In Education

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THE NEW YEAR BROUGHT WITH IT A NEW SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. TOM TORLAKSON REPLACES JACK O'CONNELL, WHO SERVED IN THE POSITION FOR NEARLY A DECADE. HE IS THE FORMER CALIFORNIA IS ARMIABLYMAN AND SCIENCE REACH ITER AND HE FACES A MONUMENTAL TASK OF LOBBYING THE STATE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN TO RESTORE FUNDING TO STATE EDUCATION THAT WAS VICTIM TO MASSIVE BUDGET CUTS. KPBS REPORTER TALKED WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT ABOUT EDUCATION IN THIS NEW YEAR. Reporter: SO MR. TORLAKSON YOU DECLARED A FINANCIAL STATE OF EMERGENCY THIS MONTH WHEN IT COMES TO STATE FUNDING FOR K-12 EDUCATION. WAS THAT MERELY SYMBOLIC, OR DOES THAT ALERT COME WITH MANDATES OR HELP FOR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS? WELL, I WISH I COULD CALL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD AND COMMANDEER BALANCES OF DOLLARS WE NEED IN OUR SCHOOLS. BUT IT WAS MORE SYMBOLIC IN TERMS OF SAYING, TRULY, OUR SCHOOLS ARE IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY. THE CUTS HAVE GOTTEN THAT SEVERE OF A LEVEL. NOW, K-12 EDUCATION, THOUGH, I THINK IN SOME PEOPLE'S MIND HAVE BEEN KIND OF PROTECTED THIS TIME AROUND, WITH GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN'S PROPOSED SPENDING PLAN. IS THAT TRUE OR COULD YOU ELABORATE ON WHAT THE STATUS IS FOR A K12 EDUCATION? FIRST SCHOOLS HAVE GIVEN FAR GREATER IN PROPORTION TO OTHER PARTS OF THE BUDGET IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. $18BILLION IS DISAPPEARED, CUT, THAT'S ONE-THIRD OF SCHOOL FUNDING. THIS YEAR, GOVERNOR IS SAYING WE HAVE TO BALANCE THIS. IT SHOULDN'T JUST ALL BE CUTS. AND HE HAD FEWER CUTS TARGETED AT THE K-12 SYSTEM. BUT THERE ARE STILL HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF LESS MONEY, WHICH MEANS CUTS, TO THE SCHOOLS AND A $2 BILLION ROLLOVER OR DEFERRAL OF PAYMENTS. SO FRANKLY, THE SCHOOLS ARE FACING A TREMENDOUS CHALLENGE AND I'M UNFORTUNATELY AFRAID WE'LL SEE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PINK SLIPS AGAIN COMING OUT IN THE MARCH DEADLINE BECAUSE THE LACK OF MONEY. NOW, GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN HAS ALSO INDICATED ONE WAY TO HELP THE SITUATION IS BY CALLING FOR A SPECIAL ELECTION AND EXTEND TAX INITIATIVES. YES. TELL ME SPECIFICALLY HOW CRUCIAL THAT WOULD BE FOR K-12 EL OCCASION, THAT SPECIAL EXTENSION OF TAX CREDITS. YES, AND IT'S ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT VOTERS OF CALIFORNIA RALLY BEHIND THAT. THIS IS WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BUDGET. IT'S REAL, IT'S NOT SMOKE AND MIRRORS. THE GOVERNOR IS BEING HONEST ABOUT THE SEVERITY OF THE PROBLEM, NOT PUSHING IT OFF TO THE FUTURE. IT DOES DEPEND ON A BALANCE INSTEAD OF JUST CUTS, CUTS -- IT'S LET'S CONTINUE A LEVEL OF TAXATION OR INVESTMENT THAT VOTERS HAVE ALREADY PUT FORWARD, LET'S VOTE YES TO CONTINUE THAT $8 BILLION PACKAGE. WITHOUT THAT, THE SCHOOLS AGAIN WOULD BE FACING $2 BILLION OF ADDITIONAL CUTS. I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO DID. WE HAVE ONE OF SHORTEST SCHOOL YEARS IN THE MODERN WORLD. WE HAVE THE MOST CROWDED CLASSROOMS IN THE NATION. WE'RE ALREADY SEEING A NUMBER OF SCHOOLS ON THE URNS OF BANKRUPTCY AND PROBLEMS. AND SO GIVEN THE FINANCIAL CLIMATE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL YOU SET FORTH SOME PRIORITIES, EXTENDING CAREER TECHNICAL EDUCATION PROGRAM, PRE-SCHOOL FOR KIDS, MATH AND SCIENCE. HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO DO ANYTHING AT THIS POINT, AS STATE SUPERINTENDENT, GIVEN THE FACT THAT YOU REALLY DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY? WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I'M A TEACHER SO I'M AN OPTIMIST AND BELIEVE IN THE TIME OF A CRISIS, WE NEED TO TAKE AN OPPORTUNITY TO REORGANIZE THINGS AND WE SHOULDN'T JUST FREEZE. WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE CRISIS. WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO BALANCE THE BUDGET BETWEEN NOW AND NEXT YEAR. BUT WE SHOULD BE PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE. AND I'M TASKING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND BRIGHT AND TALENTED EMPLOYEES THERE, AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS ACROSS THE STATE, TO BRING YOUR INNOVATIVE IDEAS. WE CAN DO SOME THINGS WITHOUT MONEY. WE CAN DO SOME THINGS THAT ARE JUST SMART THEY'RE IN THE WAY WE APPROACH LEARNING IN CALIFORNIA. AND AND SET UP THE PLACE WHERE WE KNOW THAT CALIFORNIA WILL REBOUND. WE'RE GOING TO COME BACK, AND THE NEW CALIFORNIA THAT EMERGES FROM THIS CRISIS WILL BE STRONGER, BRIGHTER, MORE HOPEFUL, AND MORE CREATIVE. IT SOUNDS LIKE THE BOTTOM LINE IS TRYING TO DO MORE WITH LESS. SO WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR PARENTS, TEACHERS, GIVEN THE SITUATION? WELL, FOR PARENTS, PLEASE BE INVOLVED WITH YOUR SCHOOL. IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY TAKEN THE TIME TO BE THERE, BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT AND LEARNING WHAT IS GOING ON IN YOUR CHILD'S CLASSROOM, PLEASE ENGAGE IN THAT WAY. ENCOURAGE YOUR SOCIAL GROUPS THAT ARE PART OF YOUR CHURCH, YOUR SERVICE CLUB, WHETHER IT'S QANTAS, GET INVOLVED, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. WE NEED CREATIVE PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE SCHOOLS. THAT'S SOMETHING I'LL BE PROMOTING VERY BIG IS GETTING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY MORE INVOLVED, HELPING OUR SCHOOLS SUCCEED, HELPING THEM FINANCIALLY, HELPING THEM WITH PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND TEACHING THAT THEY CAN IMPART WITH OUR STEWART. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. TEENAGER LICK SON, FOR JOINING US TODAY. THANK YOU, ANNA.

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