California Schools Look Forward To More Cash Under Brown Budget

Under the governor’s proposed budget, California school dividends will be paid faster than expected by an improving economy and a voter-approved tax increase, resulting in a $10-billion funding boost over last year. Receiving a greater share of dollars under a new state funding formula, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest school system, will welcome the increase with open arms.

In an increase of $6.3 billion when compared with the funding formula for the current academic year, the state’s budget for school districts and community colleges is expected to reach a total of $61.6 billion next year. Voter-approved Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase that first spared school systems from further deep budget cuts, results in some of the increase.

The task of determining which programs to restore or inaugurate will be upon school districts sooner rather than later. Salary increases and the return of laid-off coworkers is already being advocated by employees and unions.

School systems will be reluctant to tie funds to a permanent rise in wages as more than $3 billion of the increase is one-time funding.

According to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who praised the governor and his proposal, the money could eliminate a structural deficit of about $350 million without further layoffs.

“For all the good news, however, we are still many millions of dollars below the 2008 funding level, when the state budget crisis officially began,” Deasy added. “During the past five years, the LAUSD has continued to pay for vital programs with fewer resources.”

Numerous educator and activist groups also provided a positive review of the proposed budget. In addition, groups with general praise for the governor’s proposal, including Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, had concerns.

“What’s disappointing in this year’s initial proposal, given the significant increase in state resources, is the further elimination of children from quality child-care programs,” said Local 99 executive director Courtni Pugh. “Governor Brown’s school funding formula introduced last year, which ensures our neediest schools receive more funding, will never accomplish its goals if California continues to neglect its early education system.”

Brown would consider additional money to benefit younger students if a specific proposal was brought to him, aides suggested. As reported by Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times, to avoid sharp cuts during lean years, the governor also wants a portion of education funding in flush years to go into a rainy day school fund.

The growth of online education and hybrid models that combine computer time with more traditional class work will benefit from the new state funding rules. In May, the governor will unveil an updated budget proposal to the Legislature, which then would pass a spending package to send back to Brown for his signature.