In a major win for California and Bay Area public schools, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state plans to give schools a record $128.3 billion and expand its per-student spending to $22,850 to give a boost to the state’s education system amid a string of hardships throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s a number you’ve never seen in California,” Newsom said on Friday as he presented details of his revised state budget — revealing a $97.5 billion surplus due largely to economic gains from California’s wealthiest. “This is about education reform. This is about completely reimagining the education system.”
The cash will fund universal transitional kindergarten, college savings accounts for all students, school facilities, youth mental health and teacher training and recruitment, among other needs illuminated by the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
School leaders and education policy experts applauded Newsom for his commitment to funding school from transitional kindergarten all the way through college — for the most part. They’ve advocated for relief as public school enrollment plummets, student chronic absenteeism rates soar and schools lose teachers at an alarming rate.
“The revised budget directs a total of $128.3 billion to education, lifts up the most critical needs including historic funding for school mental health, recruitment and retention of teachers, and literacy strategies necessary to allow students to heal and recover after two very challenging years, ” Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of schools, wrote in a news release.
“This provides more per-pupil funding for schools to address learning gaps and invest in people and programs that will serve all student,” he wrote.
But California School Boards Association leaders said the governor could have done more.
“While the Governor’s May Revision makes admirable investments in a number of key areas, it misses an opportunity to provide funding for home-to-school transportation. As we recover from the pandemic, it’s more critical than ever that students attend schools on-time, every day,” Troy Flint, a spokesman for the California School Board Association, wrote in a news release.
Q: So how much money is going to fund what?
The state budget includes big dollars to pay for universal transitional kindergarten and school meals, an expansion of summer school and before and after school programs, a reduction in class sizes, special education, teacher hiring and recruitment and child college savings accounts. Here’s a partial breakdown:
- $8 billion in a “flexible block grant,” or one-time discretionary fund, schools can use to address student mental health, professional development, pension costs or other needs.
- $2.1 billion to combat declining enrollment in state public schools.
- $2.1 billion to increase the statewide Local Control Funding Formula, the primary mechanism for distributing funds to students in K-12 schools. That is on top of a $1.1 billion cost of living adjustment.
- $1.8 billion addition to upgrade school facilities.
- $1.5 billion to fund community schools
- $612 million for universal school meals.
- $500 million to fund residencies, or learning programs, for school counselors and teachers.
- $403 million to accelerate expanded day/summer school.
- $385 million in STEM professional development.
- $63 million in arts and music.
Stephen McMahon, deputy superintendent at San Jose Unified, said the new programming proposed by the governor’s budget are a move in the right direction, but there are immediate needs in the Bay Area, such as focusing on financially supporting families and teachers who are struggling to stay. Many districts cannot attract enough employees because of high housing costs, he said.
“We’re still in a state of emergency in California with in-person instruction and in-person learning,” McMahon said. “We need to get schools back into consistency before an introduction to new school programs. They’re all good priorities, but we have to make sure we solidify the fundamentals and then then look at what we can expand.”
Q: What about higher education?
The state is devoting a 5% multi-year base increase for University of California and the California State University. On Friday, Newsom announced a framework to help Californians attain higher education. Statewide, leaders are aiming for a 70% statewide degree completion goal by focusing on access and alignment; tuition, housing, fees and other costs; closing equity gaps, increasing enrollment, and annual reporting.
“This budget helps more underserved students achieve timely graduation and increases financial aid for low- and middle-income California students which, when combined with UC’s significant existing investments in financial aid, will help more California students receive a UC education,” Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California system, wrote in a news release Friday.