Credit: Alison Yin / EdSource (2014)

California school districts won’t have to wait an extra year to get nearly $1 billion in one-time funding, as Gov. Jerry Brown proposed last month. And after-school and summer program providers will see their first funding increase in more than a decade, under the terms of the 2017-18 state budget that legislative leaders and the Brown administration negotiated last week.

The Legislature must pass the proposed $126 billion state budget by Thursday to meet a constitutional deadline. Schools and community colleges will get a sizable share of the funding increase. Funding under Proposition 98, the formula that determines K-12 and community colleges’ share of state revenue, will rise $3.1 billion – 4.4 percent – to $74.5 billion. School districts’ share of the increase will be $2.8 billion.

In his revised May budget, Brown proposed giving schools about $600 million more than the minimum funding that Prop. 98 required, but he called for withholding $1 billion in one-time funding until May 2019 to make sure that revenue projected for next year actually comes in. Brown, who has long warned a recession is imminent, said it would be better to wait than to retroactively cut school funding in the middle of the year.

But Assembly and Senate budget negotiators didn’t like that idea any more than education groups, which said that promising then reneging on funding would raise false expectations and set a bad precedent. In the final budget, schools and community colleges will end up with the best of both worlds: Funding that won’t be delayed and that will be about 1 percent above the Prop. 98 minimum guarantee.

If Brown has second thoughts, he will have up to 12 days after the Legislature passes the budget to delete spending for individual budget items.

About half of K-12’s new money will go toward funding the Local Control Funding Formula, which distributes additional money to districts based on their percentages of low-income students and English learners. It has been Brown’s priority since its passage in 2013, and the additional $1.36 billion for next year will raise the formula to 97 percent of full funding. That’s defined as the amount needed to restore funding for all school districts to pre-recession 2007 levels, although most districts, with high numbers of students targeted for extra money, are already funded well above that amount.

For all the relatively good news, most school districts aren’t feeling flush. Mandated pension expenses for hourly workers through CalPERS and teachers and administrators through CalSTRS will rise about $1 billion next year and annually through 2020-21, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Most districts’ share of special education expenses are rising faster than the funding that districts are getting from the state in annual cost of living adjustments.

If the budget proposal is approved, the average funding increase next year will be about $490 per student, but averages are deceiving, because funding under the Local Control Funding Formula is based on proportions of high-needs students and so varies widely from district to district. The per student funding currently is $10,579 per student, according to the Department of Finance. Low-income students and English learners make up 63 percent of the average district.

“There is no question that some districts will be in really difficult financial shape and will need budget cuts to pass a balanced budget for next year or will survive on budget reserves,” said Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, an education consulting company based in Sacramento.

That’s also why paying the one-time money on time is important, said Edgar Zazueta, senior director of policy and government relations for the Association of California School Administrators. “This is a big win, especially for districts that don’t receive a lot of (supplemental money) under the Local Control Funding Formula,” he said.

Districts will not have total discretion over all of it, however. Negotiators reduce the $1 billion to $876 million to reflect slightly lower revenue estimates and to make room for the reimbursement increases for after-school programs, initiatives to address the state’s teacher shortage and other priorities of legislators and advocacy groups.

They include:

  • $50 million in additional funding for after-school and summer programs for low-income children. Funding for the state’s After School Education and Safety initiative, which voters passed in 2002, hadn’t been increased since 2006. “The current daily rate of $7.50 per child is no longer viable when you factor in cost of living and the increasing minimum wage,” Jennifer Peck, president and CEO of the Partnership for Children and Youth, wrote in a statement. While $100 million would be needed to fully fund a decade of cost of living increases, $50 million “is a great start, and we’re really grateful to all the legislative champions like Sen. (Connie) Leyva who made this happen,” she wrote.
  • $30 million for two initiatives to address the state’s teacher shortage. This will include $25 million, on top of the $20 million funded last year, in tuition subsidies to competitively chosen districts with classified employees pursuing a teaching credential, and $5 million in assistance to encourage more bilingual teachers.

Not funded were $25 million for districts to create teacher residencies, which would have provided a year of full-time mentoring for aspiring teachers, and $25 million for the Golden State Teacher Grant Program, pushed by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. It would provide $20,000 in tuition assistance for teachers in training who commit to teach in low-income schools in subject areas with shortages.

“The Legislature should be commended for the incremental steps they took to address the state’s growing teacher shortage, but students in California need more decisive action,” Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for the nonprofit Public Advocates, wrote in an email. Without more action, “high-need students who are disproportionately affected by under-prepared teachers are unlikely to see significant improvements any time soon.” Public Advocates and other organizations that are part of the LCFF Equity Coalition made their case in a May 31 letter to budget negotiators.

Other one-time funding includes:

  • $15.6 million to assure continued funding for 129 career academies, which are career technical education programs within high schools targeting low-income students.
  • $10 million in assistance for districts experiencing an increase in students from refugee families.
  • $10 million for professional development of the history and social studies curriculums.
  • $7 million in additional help to partially equalize funding for county offices of education as they expand assistance for school districts under the state’s new school accountability system. Counties had sought $20 million.

Early education

In his revised budget in May, Brown fully restored the $500 million child-care package he committed to last year. He agreed to reinstate $7.9 million to add 2,959 full-day state preschool slots and to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers.

The final budget agreement includes these provisions and addresses two issues that advocates consider critical to make child care more affordable for low-income families.

It will potentially reduce child care expenses for 1.5 million families by expanding the California Earned Income Tax credit, which enables wage earners to keep more of what they earn for a variety of expenses, including child care.

The current tax credit is available only to families with an annual salary of $10,087 or less for one child and $14,161 or less for more than one qualifying child, according to Children’s Defense Fund, a children’s advocacy organization. The new agreement will expand the eligibility limit to $22,300 for all families with dependent children.

The other issue pertains to the eligibility limit for families receiving subsidized child care. Families in California qualify for subsidized child care by meeting income limits based on the state median income. However, California has not increased its income eligibility limit in several years and the limit is based on the state median income from 2005. The budget deal calls for the state Department of Finance to update median income for various family sizes annually. It does not include an increase in the eligibility limit for next year. 

“For over a decade, the eligibility levels for subsidized child care and preschool have been frozen. Updating family eligibility preserves the ability for many minimum wage families to receive the child care parents need to work and their children need to thrive,” said Camille Maben, director of First 5 California.

EdSource reporter Ashley Hopkinson contributed to this article.

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  1. AC Germany 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Although I agree that one time funding is kicking the can down the road from dealing with chronic under funding of education, I do not agree that districts should horde money in reserve funds. I believe it's prudent to have a robust reserve fund for recession years and to deal with rising pension/healthcare costs. I have noticed that districts always want to grow their reserve funds and are reluctant to spend money on their students. … Read More

    Although I agree that one time funding is kicking the can down the road from dealing with chronic under funding of education, I do not agree that districts should horde money in reserve funds. I believe it’s prudent to have a robust reserve fund for recession years and to deal with rising pension/healthcare costs. I have noticed that districts always want to grow their reserve funds and are reluctant to spend money on their students. It’s rare, in my experience, for districts to spend resources on lowering class sizes or hiring mental health professionals in our schools without collective bargaining.

    Others have commented that funds should be spent supporting student achievement. Is ‘student achievement’ a euphemism for rising tests scores? I would argue that wage increases for teachers will attract talented teachers and retain gifted teachers as well. I think that wage increases that reflect inflation and housing costs do support student achievement.

    Lastly, I’d like to commend the governor for trying to address the disparities in funding for districts that serve underprivileged students. Equal is not fair when a certain population needs additional help to be successful. In fact, I would argue funding all districts the same exacerbates disparities in educational outcomes for students.

    Replies

    • Marisa 1 week ago1 week ago

      I can understand your perspective regarding salaries, however, unless you have worked in the system for decades and have looked to reduce class sizes for all grade levels. In addition to a reduction in class sizes, the instructional program must be modified to enhance, accelerate or remediate student achievement. Student achievement is not solely an increase in test scores. After having been a teacher in the 4-8 grades, it is painfully obvious that … Read More

      I can understand your perspective regarding salaries, however, unless you have worked in the system for decades and have looked to reduce class sizes for all grade levels. In addition to a reduction in class sizes, the instructional program must be modified to enhance, accelerate or remediate student achievement. Student achievement is not solely an increase in test scores. After having been a teacher in the 4-8 grades, it is painfully obvious that teachers need to be able to teach children how to read fluently and with greater comprehension. Reducing class size without changing the instructional system is not going to assist our children. Although most comparisons look at the allocation of funds on a per student basis – and to use those amounts as the leverage for additional funds – a comparison of costs (salaries) associated per student would give the public a better picture of how monies are used in each system.

      It is an odd assumption that teachers would be attracted to the salary and not the purpose of schooling. A review of the most impoverished districts clearly show that teachers are not attracted to the work that is necessary to assist students towards proficiency. And jobs remain unfilled regardless of the salaries and benefits.

      I don’t commend the actions of any bureaucracy that divides the futures of students into income and language brackets, creating a entire group of students who become invisible and not valued. There are a number of students who live in my neighborhood whose parents struggle to keep food on the table and the mortgage paid…although they have serious educational needs that are going underserved because the school system does not receive the same amounts per child than a school district 11 miles to the south and another 15 miles to the north. So, if a child’s parents are trying to be productive citizens – and are not speaking a language other than English – they don’t deserve additional assistance. That assumption is a problem.

  2. Jonathan Raymond 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    One time money is great and will surely help continue to fill holes from years of underfunding of education by California's political leaders. Hopefully, school districts will add these dollars to build up their reserves which will be needed more than ever in the coming months and years as the full impact of pensions hit as will the next recession. Can they resist one time expenditures? Can they hold from adding dollars to collective … Read More

    One time money is great and will surely help continue to fill holes from years of underfunding of education by California’s political leaders. Hopefully, school districts will add these dollars to build up their reserves which will be needed more than ever in the coming months and years as the full impact of pensions hit as will the next recession. Can they resist one time expenditures? Can they hold from adding dollars to collective bargaining agreements? Unfortunately, many will not.
    While one time money is nice it can’t replace the need to address the chronic underfunding of public education. How can we ever address the equity issues we champion as so important without the adequate resources? How will we ever stabilize our ranks of teachers and school leaders without paying them what they deserve if educationg our children is such a priority? Anything short of long term fixes is to continue kicking the can down the road and ensuring future generations of Californians won’t enjoy the promises of freedom. Doing so will require real courage.

  3. Marisa 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I am a retired educator and am very grateful for the increased funding for our students. However, I am concerned about the following items: 1. How are district communities using the additional funds to support student achievement? It would appear that the largest percentage of the increase supports salaries and additional positions. Will this impact student achievement? 2. There are significant educational needs in all communities, not only those … Read More

    I am a retired educator and am very grateful for the increased funding for our students. However, I am concerned about the following items:
    1. How are district communities using the additional funds to support student achievement? It would appear that the largest percentage of the increase supports salaries and additional positions. Will this impact student achievement?
    2. There are significant educational needs in all communities, not only those who serve a higher percentage of students who are on free/reduced lunches and English learners. How can we continue to provide groups of students without equal access to the funding? Their needs and goals are no different; however, they are not treated equally.
    3. Why was funding increased without an accountability measure prior to sending additional funds per child? Would we as consumers be OK with paying for a service or a product and then waiting for 3-4 years to receive the service or product?
    4. Lastly, if there is such a shortage of educators, why does the State Teachers Retirement system not modify their salary cap to entice those who have skills to return for work on an interim basis? It would serve our students if we used a cap of the total number of days a person can work up to 185 days year rather than the current salary cap. I have repeatedly asked those who administer the program to review their procedure and protocols to meet the changing fabric of our school system and needs, and have been told on a number of occasion to refer to the same handbook that has been used for decades.
    5. If funding is so flush, why are parents being asked to contribute for field trips, uniforms, and to raise funds through selling items?