Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to significant increases in K-12 spending over the past four years and the state’s leadership in returning schools to local control during his annual State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2016 in which he emphasized the need for frugality and a continued attention to “how we pay for the commitments we have already made.” (Go here for full text of the address.)
With education a relatively small theme in his 20-minute speech, Brown called on legislators to direct their attention to repairing “our deteriorating infrastructure,” taking further action to confront the state’s water shortage and paying for escalating costs and increased health-care coverage under the state’s Medi-Cal program. He has submitted proposals for all three issues.
In a section on education, Brown credited a strong economy and the passage of temporary taxes under Proposition 30 for a 51 percent overall increase in spending on public schools and community colleges over the last four years. Spending would rise from post-recession low point of $47 billion to $72 billion in the proposed 2016-17 budget. Brown has directed most of the money to the Local Control Funding Formula, which channels extra money to English learners and low-income children “to enable educators to overcome the barriers” that these children face, he said.
The funding law also shifts power to local school boards to set priorities and make spending decisions. California has led the shift to local control and a school accountability system that de-emphasizes “overly intrusive, test-heavy state control,” he said. “For the last two decades, there has been a national movement to micromanage teachers from afar, through increasingly minute and prescriptive state and federal regulations. California successfully fought that movement.”
In then-versus-now terms, Brown cited evidence of the state’s fiscal turnaround from a $26 billion deficit, low credit rating and high unemployment when he took office to a state budget surplus and low unemployment. At the same time, he said, the state enacted a higher minimum wage, sharply expanded Medi-Cal coverage for low-income families and built up a “solid” state rainy-day fund to protect against the next recession.
And he said a recession will return, which is why fiscal prudence, not new spending programs, is needed. “I don’t want to make those mistakes again,” he said.