The state's budget crisis will pass in time, but unless changes are made, the problems will come back to haunt California residents in the future, according to the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.


"For the past decade, legislative analysts have been saying we've got a structural budget problem," Superintendent Gary Thomas said Monday at the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon at Foremost Healthcare. "And we just don't seem to have the political will to fix it."


The first county superintendent to live in the High Desert while holding the position, Thomas was formerly a principal, director of elementary education, senior director of instructional services and assistant superintendent of Business Services for the Hesperia Unified School District. He's also a father of three HUSD graduates.


Thomas replaced former superintendent Herbert Fischer in August and will serve out the remainder of Fischer's term, which expires in December 2010. His office oversees the fiscal health of the county's school districts, teacher credentialing and monitors programs intended to help poorly performing schools.


This spring, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the state was facing a deficit in the billions, and that state funds for a variety of services, including payments to local school districts would be slashed.


When the legislature eventually passed a budget this September, it was the most overdue a state budget had ever been, and it happened months after school districts, including the HUSD, were required to tell employees that it didn't expect to have the money to pay them. Employees left districts around the state as a result, Thomas said, and had to be replaced in the fall after the budget was passed with much of the educational funding replaced.


"This rollercoaster ride is not good for our children," he said. "It's not good for education."


Analysts expect the current budget crisis to continue for several years -- the HUSD is currently looking at ways to cut costs for the next two budget years, and layoffs are expected in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 budgets -- and Thomas said parents will notice the effects.


"You're going to see things leaving your school districts. Counseling services, nursing services."


California schools, once some of the best and best-financed schools in the nation, are now in the bottom five in spending per student.


"I suppose we may get down to 50th [in the nation] and people will still think we're over-funded," Thomas said.


Not surprisingly, he believes more should be spent on the state's public schools.


"I believe education is the cornerstone," he said. "Many of our founding fathers talked about how you can't have a democracy without an educated populace."


But no mater what, the current crisis won't continue indefinitely. The state, and the educational system, will make it through to the other side, he said.


"There's always hope. America always comes back. This state always comes back," Thomas said. "The question is what kind of impact education will take during the process."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.