Lawmakers suggest budget cuts, including Davis project

By Alexa Haussler, The Associated Press
Saturday June 08, 2002

SACRAMENTO – As California lawmakers scrape to fill a gaping $23.6 billion budget hole, critics are calling for Gov. Gray Davis to kill one of his pet projects. 

The Turning Point Academy in San Luis Obispo is a military-style reform school intended for teen-agers caught bringing guns to school. Davis has spent $12 million to develop it, and it costs $3 million a year to operate. But the halls, dorms and classrooms are mostly vacant, with only 25 students enrolled so far. 

Shuttering the academy is one of several suggestions offered Friday as legislative budget negotiators try to revive the state’s ailing fiscal health. 

Other possibilities by lawmakers and the Legislative Analyst ranged from paroling elderly prison inmates to eliminating the state’s embattled Department of Information Technology. 

Critics of the Turning Point Academy, who include one of Davis’ own appointees to the program’s advisory board, call it a good place to start. 

“Arguably, these few graduates are the most expensive students ever in the history of the state,” Davis appointee Julian Crocker, San Luis Obispo’s school superintendent and an advisory board member appointed by Davis. 

The cost averages $1 million for each of the academy’s 10 graduates, or nearly $500,000 for each of participants so far. 

“Admitting that a program does not work is a lot better than trying to put Band-Aids on an internal hemorrhage,” Crocker wrote in a memo reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Davis will fight to keep the $2.9 million he budgeted for the academy, said spokeswoman Hilary McLean.