Credit: Elizabeth Mee
Elizabeth Mee's classroom at Alliance College Ready school in Los Angeles sits empty after the coronavirus school closures.

In an unusual move to reach a consensus early, California Assembly and Senate leaders announced Wednesday they have agreed on a state budget that would rescind all cuts to K-12 and higher education that Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed — on the assumption that Congress would soon pass, and President Donald Trump would sign, aid for states that would include $14 billion for California.

In a joint statement, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood and chairs of respective budget committees said there was a “strong likelihood” that Congress would deliver additional federal relief. (Go here for a summary of the Legislature’s budget proposal.)

Newsom, too, hopes the Senate will approve the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions — or HEROES — Act, which the U.S. House passed last month. However, instead of counting on it, he has proposed to tentatively cut programs now in the state budget that must be passed by June 30. Lawmakers would then return in late summer to deal with revised state revenue projections and decide what to do if Congress doesn’t come through with more money.

If it doesn’t, Newsom and the Legislature disagree on what would happen next.

Newsom would move ahead with an $8 billion cut to K-12 schools without more federal aid. It would include a $6.4 billion reduction — 8% — to the Local Control Funding Formula, which makes up 80% of districts’ state funding, as well as cuts to early education, after-school programs and career and technical education.

The Legislature would spare K-12 schools any cuts, primarily by issuing more IOUs, known as “deferrals.” Districts would have to borrow an additional $5.3 billion to cover their expenses, which the state would repay in subsequent years.

Legislators would restore funding for the additional $2.7 billion that Newsom would cut through revenue adjustments and savings from negotiating savings from furloughs and employee compensation, along with taking additional money from the state’s reserves — the rainy day fund.

The University of California and California State University would not go unscathed if there’s no federal relief by fall. Legislators would impose the same cuts that Newsom proposes: $370 million for UC and $400 for CSU.

“We recognize the efforts of the Senate and Assembly in agreeing to a budget proposal that prevents immediate educator layoffs as well as their commitment to prioritizing our schools, colleges and preserving programs for the most vulnerable,” said E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, in a statement on behalf of a coalition of education groups. “During the last week, we have again become painfully aware as a nation and a state of the inequity and racial inequality in our institutions and the impact it has on our students and communities of color.”

Newsom already had proposed $5.3 billion in deferrals for K-12 schools in his revised budget he released in May. That would bring deferrals to more than $10 billion — the same amount that the state had accumulated over several years during the Great Recession.

Deferrals don’t come without consequences. Small districts, charter schools and districts that rely on state funding more than property tax receipts would have to borrow larger sums to make their payrolls, potentially at higher interest rates.

The Legislature’s budget would treat community colleges similary to K-12 schools. Both systems are funded through Proposition 98, a formula that determines how much of the state budget goes to both systems. Newsom proposed $662 million in deferrals for the system’s 115 community colleges followed by a 10 percent budget cut if federal aid didn’t materialize. The Legislature would double the amount of the deferrals that Newsom proposed  in lieu of  the cut.

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley expressed unhappiness in a statement Wednesday. “While I understand the difficulties that the state’s budget deficit presents for policymakers, I am disappointed in the message that the Legislature’s Budget Proposal sends to the 2.1 million students of the California Community Colleges,” he said. “Furthermore, deferring more than $700 million in revenue in lieu of tangible and predictable budget adjustments sets up a very tenuous budget situation for our colleges.”

The Legislature is also rejecting the governor’s proposed 10% cut to the monthly payments the state sends to preschool and child care providers who care for low-income children.

“It’s fantastic,” said Mary Ignatius, statewide organizer for Parent Voices, a parent-led organization that advocates for more subsidized child care. “For these providers who have been doing the unimaginable to figure out how to stay open, how to keep their staff, how to deal with new social distancing ratios, how to get PPE equipment, the last thing they needed was to think that starting in a few weeks they would get a pay cut. So I think it’s an incredible validation to the work that they provide.”

However, there is no mention in the Legislature’s agreement of the other preschool and child care plans that were slashed under the governor’s proposed budget — for example, funding for 20,000 more low-income 4-year-olds to attend preschool and funding for training more child care providers and building more preschool classrooms.

By rescinding immediate cuts and restoring the 2.3% cost of living adjustment for 2020-21, the Legislature would eliminate districts’ authority to lay off teachers this summer. By statute, Newsom’s proposed budget cuts would have permitted it. The California Teachers Association said it would lobby the Legislature to override that option. It won’t have to, if the Legislature’s budget prevails.

The normal annual budget process entails the Assembly and Senate passing separate budgets, and then negotiating their differences before sending a compromise budget to the governor. Adopting a joint budget now could put the Legislature in a better bargaining position with Newsom. The statement didn’t say when both houses of the Legislature would vote on the agreement.

Bob Blattner, a Sacramento-based education consultant, said that Newsom favors leaving more money in the state’s rainy day fund and not relying more on deferrals now, since the state could face a lengthy and punishing recession.

“There is room for legitimate disagreement about how rapidly budget mitigation measures should be taken to minimize immediate fiscal distress, and how much should be held in reserve for rainy days to come,” he said in statement. “The Legislature has come down on the side of sooner-is-better.”

In most other areas of the budget, legislative leaders adopted Newsom’s strategies to close a gaping revenue deficit.

“The Administration had a tough job, working with a $54 billion shortfall; we used their proposal with a couple of key differences,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, in a statement. “We still have a lot of work to do but we are aware the June 15 budget deadline will not be our last action this year due to the ongoing devastating impacts of Covid-19,” she said.

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  1. Caroline 1 month ago1 month ago

    I don’t understand how any state can say they are cutting budgets to schools. Children are going to really need schools in the fall. Cut the budget to roads, we didn’t drive on them for 13 weeks. ‍♀️

  2. Vanessa 1 month ago1 month ago

    I appreciate the comments below. As a teacher of almost 10 years with experience in many diverse cultures, I’d like to speak to this. It is very painful to see people expect so much of teachersAnd hold us accountable for things we cannot control. There is only so much a teacher can do to raise teat scores. The motivation of the students, their socioeconomic status, and many other factors play a role in their ability … Read More

    I appreciate the comments below. As a teacher of almost 10 years with experience in many diverse cultures, I’d like to speak to this. It is very painful to see people expect so much of teachersAnd hold us accountable for things we cannot control. There is only so much a teacher can do to raise teat scores. The motivation of the students, their socioeconomic status, and many other factors play a role in their ability to succeed and do well in school.

    Why teachers are ‘punished’ in a sense is disheartening. Individual students, their families, and their life circumstances also play a role in their success in school. I’ve had countless students simply not care about school. There are times when it does not matter how hard the teacher tries, or the resources we provide to support students. If they do not care about their education, there is only so much responsibility we can take for that.

    When a patient with cardiovascular issues is told by a doctor that they must change their diet to improve their health or they risk heart failure, the doctor provides medicine and counsel to this patient. The decision/motivation of the patient is then ultimately up to the patient himself. Would you threaten to lower a doctor’s salary based on how many patients died of cardiovascular disease?

    Replies

    • JACK 1 month ago1 month ago

      Vanessa, I am hopeful you retool and find another career, both for your own sense of fulfillment and that of the children you serve. Your comments lead me to believe you feel powerless and victimized in your position, which will only spread to the children you serve (yes, serve). If you do not believe in your own power and capacity to thrive, children will pick up on that and respond accordingly. This period … Read More

      Vanessa, I am hopeful you retool and find another career, both for your own sense of fulfillment and that of the children you serve. Your comments lead me to believe you feel powerless and victimized in your position, which will only spread to the children you serve (yes, serve). If you do not believe in your own power and capacity to thrive, children will pick up on that and respond accordingly. This period of social distancing may be a great opportunity to look at other career choices. Wishing you the best in the days and months to come.

      • education matters 1 week ago1 week ago

        Great assessment Jack! We need less of these kind of teachers who run their mouths with excuses! We need more passionate and intellectual educators teaching in the classrooms!

  3. Dr. Bill Conrad 1 month ago1 month ago

    Would it be impertinent to ask for a modicum of accountability to accompany no reductions in the K-12 education budget?

    Based on the 2018-19 State Test results for Mathematics, only 14.27% of 11th grade Black students are proficient or advanced.

    Would it be impolite to ask if school districts might be able to drive that figure up to 15%.

    Better to go slow to go fast!

    Replies

    • Todd Maddison 1 month ago1 month ago

      Exactly right. As I posted earlier, it would seem a perfect time to learn from the past and fix those problems before we shovel more dollars into the fire. There are certain "known issues" right now - the lack of accountability in special ed spending was identified by the state auditor last year, we know that the growth of pension contributions is sucking out increasing amounts of funding, and the growth in pay and benefits … Read More

      Exactly right. As I posted earlier, it would seem a perfect time to learn from the past and fix those problems before we shovel more dollars into the fire.

      There are certain “known issues” right now – the lack of accountability in special ed spending was identified by the state auditor last year, we know that the growth of pension contributions is sucking out increasing amounts of funding, and the growth in pay and benefits in education has been skyrocketing since Thurmond ruled that is allowable.

      Implementing some common-sense reforms to deal with all three should be a condition of any bail-outs, rather than simply papering over the problem once again.

  4. Julie Gerien 1 month ago1 month ago

    Is this a time to reconsider modifications to Prop 13? Would a change help to bring more financial equity to school In low income areas and help the education system as whole? It seems that equity is essential and current funding methods don’t seem to be providing that and the post COVID budget cuts will not improve the situation.

    Replies

    • Todd Maddison 1 month ago1 month ago

      Financial equity is a great thing to insist on. As we saw in last year's auditor's report, funding that is supposed to go to special ed is not going there. I'm sure there are other examples. Prior to suggesting we modify Prop 13 to increase revenue, I would suggest we insist on seeing improved accountability first. My mom used to tell me "first you do the job, then you ask for the raise." Saying "give … Read More

      Financial equity is a great thing to insist on. As we saw in last year’s auditor’s report, funding that is supposed to go to special ed is not going there. I’m sure there are other examples.

      Prior to suggesting we modify Prop 13 to increase revenue, I would suggest we insist on seeing improved accountability first.

      My mom used to tell me “first you do the job, then you ask for the raise.”

      Saying “give me more money and then I’ll do better” has never worked in the past (witness the decline in some measures of educational performance despite the Prop 30 increases in ed funding…)

      Schools want – and should get – “local control”, but as we’ve seen that frequently means “so we can give ourselves raises”, not so they can spend that money on things that actually improve the education of our kids.

      • JACK 1 month ago1 month ago

        Todd, as to your point about local control, districts should earn local control by showing compliance with clear accountability standards. Local control should not be automatic, which unfortunately appears to be the case now. Failing school districts (and there are many, by any standard) should not have autonomy until they can demonstrate levels of performance which likely assure sustainability of future success. In part this starts with training of local school board members, who, … Read More

        Todd, as to your point about local control, districts should earn local control by showing compliance with clear accountability standards. Local control should not be automatic, which unfortunately appears to be the case now. Failing school districts (and there are many, by any standard) should not have autonomy until they can demonstrate levels of performance which likely assure sustainability of future success.

        In part this starts with training of local school board members, who, while well intentioned, lack the skill set for true oversight responsibility on behalf of the local community and families served by the schools. Accountability starts at the local level with these policy makers – under any system of governance statewide.

  5. Todd Maddison 1 month ago1 month ago

    So … once again we see our legislators ducking the hard decisions… Borrowing from the future rather than dealing with the shortfall now. Not requiring any real conditions on the funds provided by that borrowing. Typical politicians avoiding doing anything to fix recognized problems right now, hoping the consequences will happen when it’s not their shift any more. The CARES Act requires some of the funding be spent on special ed, but we’ve seen how well that works … Read More

    So … once again we see our legislators ducking the hard decisions…

    Borrowing from the future rather than dealing with the shortfall now. Not requiring any real conditions on the funds provided by that borrowing.

    Typical politicians avoiding doing anything to fix recognized problems right now, hoping the consequences will happen when it’s not their shift any more.

    The CARES Act requires some of the funding be spent on special ed, but we’ve seen how well that works with current LCFF requirements. The state auditor has found the current lack of oversight lets SPED-designated funding be diverted elsewhere. And we’re going to distribute this money through that same dysfunctional system?

    Why condition this aid on fixing that so special ed funding actually goes where it’s needed most?

    Why tie the funds to further long-term adjustments and fixes to pension plans – which we’ve heard so much about driving districts financial problems?

    Or why put any strings on compensation increases for district employees (or perhaps even roll back some recent increases in light of the crises) – which is actually driving the bulk of districts financial issues?

    Nope. Let’s ignore the root problems. Again.

    Instead of fixing the recognized causes of financial difficulties let’s just hand out some credit cards and put off real fixes until “tomorrow”, once again.