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With eye-popping state revenues feeding an ambitious agenda, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday multi-year plans for transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, full funding for summer school and after school for 2 million children, hundreds of new service-based community schools and a $2 billion program to set up a $500 college savings account for every low-income child entering public school.
At a press conference at an elementary school in Castroville, outside of Monterey, he called his proposals a “$20 billion blueprint over the next five years for the total transformation” of schools. Even more upbeat, Linda Darling-Hammond, Newsom’s adviser and president of the State Board of Education, characterized the spending as “a set of interlocking interventions and investments that are going to catapult California back to that leadership position (in education) and more important, it will enable all of our children to be on a path to genuine thriving.”
Newsom also reiterated what he has been recently saying: He expects all school districts and charter schools to revert to full-day, in-person instruction in the fall, as they did before the pandemic. Those districts that fail to provide full-day instruction will not be eligible for student funding, according to administration officials who offered a preview of Newsom’s updated state budget for K-12 schools.
Many superintendents have called on Newsom to give districts the option of offering distance learning to families that prefer it and students with medical conditions that require it. While Newsom will not require distance learning as an alternative, districts can offer it under an independent study option that existed before the pandemic, officials said. Newsom said the “trailer bill,” language that amplifies the budget, will provide more details.
Newsom will release his annual May budget revision on Friday.
In January, Newsom presented a proposed 2021-22 budget that itself showed an extraordinary turnaround from the 2020-21 budget that the Legislature passed during the early months of Covid-19, in June 2020. It projected a massive recession and drop in state funding to $70.9 billion for Proposition 98, the portion of the general fund for K-12 schools and community colleges. In order to avoid big cuts in funding, schools and community colleges have had to borrow or dip into savings this year to compensate for $12.5 billion in late state payments, called deferrals.
But the wealthiest 1% of Californians, who pay the bulk of capital gains and personal income taxes, did extraordinarily well over the past year, even as millions of low-wage workers lost jobs and bore the brunt of the pandemic. The Department of Finance now projects Proposition 98 revenue for the current fiscal year will rise nearly one-third to a record $92.8 billion and an additional $900 million to $93.7 billion for 2021-22, which starts July 1.
That’s about $15.2 billion more for funding for K-12 alone than Newsom forecast in January, and his proposed revised spending plan includes a package of proposals intended to improve the learning opportunities and conditions in low-income schools, officials said. The money is in addition to the $25 billion in federal Covid relief funding and the $4.6 billion in state funding that Newsom and the Legislature approved in March primarily to address the immediate impact of the pandemic on low-income children.
Newsom’s proposed budget revision includes:
- Universal transitional kindergarten: Newsom had promised to make transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds a priority, and now he will use unanticipated funding from the general fund to phase it in. Currently, the extra year of kindergarten is offered only to children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2. Starting in 2022-23, it will be expanded in annual increments, first to children turning 5 by March 2, then in 2023-24 for birthdays by July 2 and finally in 2024-25 for full implementation at an additional annual cost of $2.7 billion. Newsom also proposes $740 million to cut the class size in half from 24 students per teacher to 12;
- Extended learning time: The state also will phase in ongoing funding for quality after-school and summer enrichment programs for 2.1 million children in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade in districts with the highest concentration of English learners, foster and homeless students and low-income children. The five-year transition period will start with districts with the most high-needs students and expand to children in all districts where at least 55% of students are “high-needs” students. Cost: $1 billion next year, $5 billion by year five. The state has been funding after-school programs through Proposition 49, an initiative that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authored, but Newsom said it hadn’t generated enough money to fully make an impact.
- Community schools: Newsom had proposed $265 million in his January budget for expanding community schools — those that provide mental health services, wellness clinics, after-school activities, parent resources and liaisons. Newsom would increase that amount to $3 billion in grants for hundreds of schools to be designated community schools, with partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the community;
- “High-dosage tutoring”: Newsom and the Legislature included tutoring as one of the options districts could choose in spending the $4.6 billion in funding approved in March. Now, he is earmarking an additional $2.6 billion for intensive in-school tutoring as a strategy to address gaps in learning from the pandemic. Finding enough tutors statewide could be a challenge; administration officials have suggested recruiting retired teachers and students in teacher credentialing programs.
- Additional staff: Districts with the highest percentages of English learners and low-income students — “concentration districts” that get the most money under the Local Control Funding Formula — would receive $1 billion more each year to hire additional staff. Districts would decide how to spend it, whether, for example, on more counselors or classroom aides or first grade teachers to lower the student-to-teacher ratio, and they’d explain their choices in their annual spending plan, the Local Control and Accountability Plan;
- $500 savings accounts: Every public school first grader who qualifies for federally subsidized school meals would receive $500 ($1,000 for each foster and homeless child) to create a college savings account that will grow in value over time to create the path to postsecondary education. Newsom would channel $2 billion in one-time federal American Rescue Plan funding for 2021-22, with $170 million ongoing from the general fund beginning in 2022-23. San Francisco became the first U.S. city to establish college savings accounts when he was mayor, he said. They “create the opportunity for families to focus on developing assets and getting kids to have a college-going mindset or a trade school mindset. It’s about lifelong learning.”
Other spending highlights include:
- Higher cost of living adjustment: The current austerity budget has no COLA. Next year’s 4.05% increase will make up for it, with a “super-COLA” of 5.1% for the Local Control Funding Formula, which covers districts’ overall expenses;
- Deferrals: Newsom proposes to eliminate all but $2.6 billion in deferrals, and that the remaining late payment to districts would be only a month late. Administration officials said that districts flush with billions in additional federal funding can easily cover it;
- Rainy day fund: As required by the state Constitution in good revenue years, $4.6 billion will be contributed to the Proposition 98 stabilization account for use in future recessions;
- Teacher pipeline: Newsom would spend $3 billion over several years on programs to attract and train more teachers into the profession through teacher residencies, Golden State Scholarships to encourage more college students to become certified teachers and financial incentives for teachers aides and classified employees to become certificated teachers in their home districts;
- School reopening funding: To help districts with the fall return to full-time, in-person instruction, Newsom proposes $2 billion that could be used for Covid testing of students and staff, establish vaccination clinics and take other steps to assure parents that schools are safe to reopen.
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