Legislature disagrees with Newsom on how to spend additional billions for education

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

A kindergarten teacher helps a girl and boy with a class activity.

School districts and charter schools would get $4.5 billion more than Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing for the Local Control Funding Formula, under a draft 2022-23 state budget that the Legislature released this week.

But to do it, lawmakers would cut into some of Newsom’s favored proposals like his early literacy proposal for $500 million over five years to train and hire literacy coaches and reading specialists in elementary schools and $200 million to create or expand multilingual school or classroom libraries with “culturally relevant texts” to support reading. The Legislature also wants to cut an additional $1.5 billion to establish community schools in schools with concentrations of low-income families; the 2021-22 budget included $3 billion to launch the program. 

The literacy proposals are backed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s task force on early literacy.

Since legislative leaders are basing their alternative budget on the same revenue projections for 2022-23 that Newsom used, they would eliminate or reduce some of Newsom’s top priorities to make room for the $4.5 billion.

The Legislature would further slice Newsom’s pot of one-time funding by dropping $1.8 billion for deferred maintenance of K-12 facilities and reducing increased funding for dual enrollment and career pathways.

All levels of higher education and early education would get additional funding, too, under the Legislature’s plan. Creating a unified plan will enable leaders of the Senate and Assembly, where Democrats predominate, to speak with one voice when negotiating with the governor to meet the June 15 deadline for passing a budget.

Along with different priorities, Newsom’s and the Legislature’s plans reflect a fundamental disagreement over how much of the state’s surplus should be divided between ongoing and one-time funding.

In his May budget revision, Newsom proposed a 9.9% permanent increase to the funding formula, the main source of districts’ and charter schools’ general spending; it would include a new $2.1 billion, plus an increase in the cost of living adjustment to reflect rising inflation. Legislative leaders would add $4.5 billion to make it 16% more – the biggest annual increase since the formula was created nine years ago. The Legislature would increase the formula’s extra money for districts with low-income students by expanding eligibility from 185% to 250% of federal poverty guidelines.

School districts have made more money for the funding formula their top budget priority. Some advocates for students in poverty, however, argue legislative leaders are advocating the wrong approach.

“We’re concerned that the Legislature is proposing to cut equity-focused investments in the neediest communities in favor of a middle-class expansion of the Local Control Funding Formula,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney and director of educational equity for the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates. “Using a 250% of poverty threshold would dilute the current equity focus of LCFF and send more dollars to districts that are not experiencing the effects of concentrated poverty.”

Other significant changes to Newsom’s budget include:

  • Adding $500 million to the $8 billion in one-time funding Newsom proposes for districts, extending it to seven years and requiring that districts spend it on personnel-related expenses to help students recover from the pandemic. (Early literacy specialists and materials would qualify for this money, the plan says.)
  • Adding $1.2 billion for the existing home-to-school transportation program, which has not been increased for nearly a decade, with the goal of moving to free bus transportation for elementary school and low-income students by 2027-28.
  • Adding $1 billion for school construction and repairs to the $3.1 billion Newsom has proposed from the state’s general fund.
  • Adding $250 million to Newsom’s proposed $450 million to upgrade school kitchen facilities with $100 million to purchase locally grown healthy food.
  • Cutting $385 million for teacher training in the state’s science and mathematics standards. (Districts could use the $850 million, one-time pandemic recovery funding for this purpose, the plan says.)

Child care and early education

The Legislature is proposing about $1.8 billion to bump up the amount of money that child care centers are paid to care for low-income children. The plan also sets aside funds for provider health and retirement benefits in an effort to buttress the fragile child care system.

State child care programs, including preschool, would receive 85% of the 2018 rate, up from 75% now, plus a cost-of-living adjustment. There would also be an increase in payments for 3-year-olds in state preschool programs, even as 4-year-olds migrate to transitional kindergarten.

“California leaders have failed to adequately compensate subsidized child care providers in recent years, despite the state’s strong revenue growth,” said Kristin Schumacher, senior policy analyst for the California Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization. “Gov. Newsom should absolutely follow the Legislature’s lead and continue to increase payment rates in the 2022-23 budget agreement.”

Other key changes in the early childhood education space include earmarking $300 million in one-time funding for more prekindergarten planning and implementation and $650 million for facilities for preschool and kindergarten programs.

Higher education

For California’s colleges and universities, the Legislature’s agreement seeks more spending than Newsom proposed in several key areas, including financial aid and base funding for the college systems. The Legislature’s joint agreement seeks to add the following new funding to Newsom’s budget proposal:

  • $315 million in 2024-25 and $237 million in 2025-26 to fully fund reform of the Cal Grant, California’s main financial aid program. The changes, which are proposed in Assembly Bill 1746, would expand eligibility for Cal Grant awards to an additional 150,000 students — mostly in community colleges. The Legislature also seeks to simplify the Cal Grant program by consolidating it into just two awards, one for community college students and another for students attending four-year universities.
  • Funding to further strengthen the Cal Grant, beginning with $185 million in 2023-24, by increasing the nontuition award amount to help students pay for living costs.
  • An additional $100 million in 2022-23 and $200 million in 2023-24 over what Newsom proposed for California State University’s base funding. That should be welcome news to the 23-campus system; following Newsom’s revised budget proposal in May, interim CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester said it was “disheartening” that Newsom didn’t offer more funding amid high inflation.
  • An extra $50 million for the University of California’s base funding in 2022-23 over what Newsom proposed.
  • An increase of $700 million in Proposition 98 funding for California’s system of 116 community colleges above Newsom’s proposal.

EdSource writers Karen D’Souza and Michael Burke contributed to this article.

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