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The article was updated on Wednesday at 5 pm with further details.

Even while again predicting an economic recession just around the corner, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to leave office with a burst of education spending.

Taking advantage of a voter-mandated budget formula that determines annual revenue for K-12 schools and community colleges, the governor in his 2018-19 budget is addressing what Michael Kirst, the president of the State Board of Education, calls “pent-up policy needs.”

Brown proposes sizable spending to address the shortage of special education teachers, connect career pathways programs with community colleges and give more resources to the state’s new school accountability system. (See budget summary, pages 21 to 39)

Spending proposals include:

  • $3 billion to finish funding the Local Control Funding Formula, his landmark education financing law, two years ahead of schedule.
  • $55 million in ongoing funding for county offices of education to assist local school districts identified as needing help with low-performing student groups, and a competitive grant of $4 million to choose eight county offices that would provide guidance to the other counties. “We greatly appreciate the governor’s recognition of the critical role county offices play in implementing the new school accountability system in the many diverse communities across our state,” Peter Birdsall, executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, said in an email.
  • $6.5 million in additional ongoing funding for a new state agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, that oversees districts’ academic achievement. The combination of more money for 58 county offices and the collaborative will help build a system of support for districts that now bear the responsibility of figuring out how to improve student performance under a new decentralized school accountability system.
  • $100 million in one-time funding to recruit and train special education teachers in an effort to reverse a critical shortage. “Most concerning, the number of special education teachers providing instruction with a substandard credential continues to rise,” the budget summary states. Half of the money will establish teacher residencies, an approach pushed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Chairwoman Linda Darling-Hammond that establishes a one-year mentoring program for teachers in training. The other $50 million will be competitive grants for districts proposing solutions to the special ed teacher shortage.

The amount is a huge infusion of money, but Kirst, who, with Darling-Hammond had led the creation of 2015 Statewide Task Force on Special Education, observed that it was “imperative” that the funding be made now. “There is no time for incremental programs,” he said, since it was unclear whether the next governor would make the teacher shortage a priority.

  • $212 million in ongoing money to extend career technical education programs under the community colleges’ Strong Workforce Programs to K-12 districts and $12 million to hire local industry experts for technical expertise in setting up the programs.
  • $300,000 to improve the usefulness of the California School Dashboard, a website that rates schools districts by color on a range of measurements. Parents and teachers have complained it is hard to use and too complex.

On top of this, Brown is proposing to give districts $1.8 billion in discretionary one-time funding available from revenue adjustments.

Total funding for K-12 schools and community colleges is determined by Proposition 98, a 30-year-old formula that voters passed to guarantee a minimum level of education funding. Brown’s Department of Finance projects Prop. 98 will be funded $78.3 billion in 2018-19, an increase of $4.6 billion over what the Legislature appropriated for the current year. Community colleges receive about 11 percent of the total, with K-12 schools getting most of the remainder.

Local Control Funding Formula

The additional $3 billion for the funding formula in 2018-19 will consume most of the projected budget increase of $4 billion for K-12 schools.

Brown’s funding law shifted authority over spending decisions from Sacramento to school districts, and funneled substantial money to districts to support high-needs students: English learners and low-income, foster and homeless students. The governor on Wednesday also proposed for the first time to base community college funding on the same concept.

At his press conference to discuss the budget, Brown made a strong defense of the formula and the principle of local control. Asked why he should pour more money into education when test scores are persistently low, Brown said, “This is not going to be solved in Sacramento. Kids learn at home and in the classroom. People who really want to help in a school that is not performing, should go to the principal and find out what they need.”

“Local empowerment,” he added. “That’s what it’s all about. The age of micromanagement from Washington or Sacramento is over as far as I am concerned.”

At Brown’s urging, the Legislature passed the Local Control Funding Formula in 2013. Full funding means that funding levels for all districts have been restored at least to the pre-recession levels of 2008-09. Districts with high concentrations of students targeted for extra money — such as Santa Ana Unified — are funded above that level. Santa Ana will receive about a third more per student than Huntington Beach City School District, a wealthier district in Orange County with few students targeted for additional aid.

Full funding also ends the transition from a system where districts had varying levels of funding based on often quirky formulas to uniform funding. For example, a district where 80 percent of students qualify for extra money will now get about 20 percent more funding than a similarly sized district with only 40 percent high-needs students.

When proposing the formula five years ago, Brown estimated it would take eight years, until 2020-21, for an additional $20 billion to fully fund it. And it would have taken a lot longer had not voters in 2012 approved a temporary sales and income tax increase under Proposition 30, which Brown campaigned heavily for. The bulk of the money, raising $6 billion to $9 billion per year, went to K-12 schools and community colleges. Two years ago, voters extended the income tax piece of Prop. 30 for a dozen years by approving Proposition 55.

Responding to the budget, school leaders tempered their praise for Brown by emphasizing that full LCFF funding is not adequate funding.

“Our school district greatly appreciates Gov. Brown’s support for public education” and his proposal to fully reach the funding formula target early, George Mannon, superintendent of Torrance Unified and a leader of the district-led California School Funding Coalition, said in a statement. “With that said, every school district in California is facing a dilemma: the inadequacy of base funding to cover the fixed costs imposed since the creation of the LCFF and without additional funding.”

What happens after next year, post-full funding, will be up to the next governor and Legislature. They could fund only inflation increases, making room for other priorities, or they could keep pumping more money into the formula. Brown has taken no position on the future of the formula.

Both the school funding coalition and the California School Boards Association are calling for legislation to set a new target that “will ultimately bring school funding to the level of the top 10 states.”

Mike Walsh, president of the California School Boards Association, said, “We expect to work with this governor and his successor — or, if necessary, go to the voters — in order to secure the full and fair funding needed to prepare all students for success in college, career and civic life.”

Amending the funding law

Separate from funding, Brown indicated he is willing to reword the Local Control Funding Formula to make it clearer whether districts are effectively using supplemental money that’s intended for high-needs students. The lack of clarity has been a consistent complaint of parent and student advocacy groups. Until now the governor has resisted any amendments to  the law.

The K-12 budget  summary (page 24)  says that “to improve fiscal transparency,” districts will be required to show in their annual budget and planning document, the Local Control and Accountability Plan, how supplemental expenditures align with improvement strategies for students generating the money. Brown is also proposing a single website listing the supplemental dollars each district receives under the funding formula.

The changes will not go as far as Assembly Bill 1321, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and supported Children Now and other student advocacy groups. It would require a stricter accounting of funding formula spending down to the school level. But the proposed changes indicate that Brown acknowledges a transparency problem.

Wording of  the amendment would be in budget language that Brown will release in May.

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  1. Natalie Burr 7 months ago7 months ago

    Does this mean that the schools lose over $10,000 whenever a student is absent from the school? Because if so, shouldn’t the student have more power in schools – if the schools are literally being paid for them being there?

  2. Paul Andersen 10 months ago10 months ago

    Brown’s Education Budget reflects a limited release of bond funds approved in November 2016. At the rate he is approving a release it will take ten years to release it all! Sad.

  3. Sophia 10 months ago10 months ago

    Since LCFF specifically indicates the required spend per pupil and helps cover that gap for poorer districts, the following statement on its own seems a bit misleading in that it refers just to LCFF Funds rather than All Funds (including local sources such property taxes, bonds, and donations), as it suggests that poor districts will have that much more to spend: 'Santa Ana will receive about a third more per student than Huntington Beach City … Read More

    Since LCFF specifically indicates the required spend per pupil and helps cover that gap for poorer districts, the following statement on its own seems a bit misleading in that it refers just to LCFF Funds rather than All Funds (including local sources such property taxes, bonds, and donations), as it suggests that poor districts will have that much more to spend:

    ‘Santa Ana will receive about a third more per student than Huntington Beach City School District, a wealthier district in Orange County with few students targeted for additional aid.’

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 10 months ago10 months ago

      Sophia: You are correct; districts receive federal and local sources in addition to state funding. Some federal money (Title I) is targeted for high-need students; some local sources (parcel taxes primarily adopted by districts made up of high per income voters) are not. The reference to Santa Ana and Huntington Beach applies only to the Local Control Funding Formula, which makes up the bulk of state funding. My short-hand reference to "wealthy" Huntington Beach referred … Read More

      Sophia: You are correct; districts receive federal and local sources in addition to state funding. Some federal money (Title I) is targeted for high-need students; some local sources (parcel taxes primarily adopted by districts made up of high per income voters) are not. The reference to Santa Ana and Huntington Beach applies only to the Local Control Funding Formula, which makes up the bulk of state funding. My short-hand reference to “wealthy” Huntington Beach referred not to per student spending, which is not high, but to the income of its residents.

  4. ann 10 months ago10 months ago

    'The combination of more money for 58 county offices and the collaborative will help build a system of support for districts that now bear the responsibility of figuring out how to improve student performance under a new decentralized school accountability system.' But..."...Kids learn at home and in the classroom. People who really want to help in a school that is not performing, should go to the principal and find out what they need.” Seems like … Read More

    ‘The combination of more money for 58 county offices and the collaborative will help build a system of support for districts that now bear the responsibility of figuring out how to improve student performance under a new decentralized school accountability system.’
    But…”…Kids learn at home and in the classroom. People who really want to help in a school that is not performing, should go to the principal and find out what they need.” Seems like a contradiction.
    Also “…the inadequacy of base funding to cover the fixed costs imposed since the creation of the LCFF and without additional funding.” Is he talking pension payments?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 10 months ago10 months ago

      Thanks, Ann.
      Pensions were a significant piece of what George Mannon was talking about.

  5. Dick Jung 10 months ago10 months ago

    Great New Year news for California, leading the way again, providing addtional resources to one-ninth of the nation’s special needes students and families. Congrats to Jerry, Brown, Mike Kirst , Linda Darling-Hammond and others for keeping responsibility and accountability primarily at the local level with a focus on improving instruction….with persistence and humility.