LONG BEACH - Long Beach's education leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday following the passage of Proposition 30, which officials said will provide millions of dollars in funding for local schools.
Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure won with 53.9 percent of the vote following a close race in which the measure trailed for most of election night.
"Today is a very good day," said Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. "It's a good day because our kids are no longer going to face the real strong possibility of 20 fewer days of school."
Officials said the passage of Prop. 30 will prevent further deep cuts to education, but the temporary tax measure is by no means a "fix-all" after years of state funding reductions.
"This isn't going to solve all of our problems. We'll still have to cut no matter what," Steinhauser said. "But what Prop. 30 has done for us is stop the massive bleeding. We still have to address our lack of resources, but now we have a reasonable time to do it in."
The state's third-largest school district has laid off more than 1,000 employees and slashed its budget by $300 million since 2008 in an effort to remain fiscally stable.
Anticipating an additional $35 million loss in funding if Prop. 30 failed, LBUSD was considering shortening the school year, closing schools and eliminating programs such as sports, music and art.
Even with the good news, the school district still faces a $20 million deficit, Steinhauser said, adding that the budget will be tight but manageable.
The district is considering closing small schools, freezing vacant positions and making small reductions to programs to fill its $20 million budget hole.
"It will be tight, but what you're not gonna see are massive cuts," Steinhauser said.
He said the district could begin restoring programs and positions within the next two years if the economy continues to recover.
The passage of Prop. 30 will also help stabilize funding and mitigate cuts at Long Beach City College.
The college was anticipating an $8.4 million loss in funding but is now working with a $2 million deficit, said LBCC President Eloy Oakley.
"It may not solve all of the problems we have today, but at least it gives us more certainty and allows funding to go into our public education system while we wait for our economy to really turn around," he said. "It's the right step forward to increase revenue and bringing our community colleges back to where they were."
The college still plans to discontinue about a dozen courses next year. Currently, 17 courses face the chopping block, including auto mechanics, film, health and human services, photography, and radio/TV.
Oakley said the college was considering cutting all 17 programs in the event that Prop. 30 failed.
"Fortunately, we will not have to cut all of those programs," he said.
Some students in the Cal State University system will see reimbursement checks for the fall semester, thanks to Prop. 30.
Following the measure passage, the Cal State University system now plans to rescind a $249 per semester tuition increase already in place and will maintain enrollment numbers for next fall.
In a letter to Cal State Long Beach students, faculty and staff, President F. King Alexander said Prop. 30 is a sign that Californians have made education a priority.
The measure, however, doesn't address the long-term impacts of severe budget cuts in recent years, he said.
The 23-campus CSU has seen a nearly $1 billion reduction in state funding in recent years. The CSU had planned to raise tuition an additional $150 next semester and cut enrollment for thousands of prospective students in the anticipation of a $250 million "trigger cut" in funding.
Annual tuition for full-time undergraduates will now revert back to $5,472 - the same rate as in the 2011-2012 academic year.
Alexander said he hopes to see an increase in funding in the state's next budget cycle.
"(The) passage of Proposition 30 indicates that the people of California have spoken and agree that the public education system is underfunded," Alexander wrote. "Prop. 30 is an important "first step" toward adequate funding for the children and students of California and perhaps is an indication that public education needs to be a state priority once again."