Jerry Brown Signs California Budget, Expands Education Funding

California’s K-12 budget signed by Governor Jerry Brown last week contains good news for the state’s public education system, which has been battered by cuts since the beginning of the recession 5 years ago. According to Judy Lin of the Associated Press, schools around the state will get billions in additional funding – money that will be used to restore educational programs which children and families have had to do without while California struggled to balance its budget amid falling revenues.

Brown was jubilant at the signing ceremony, saying that for the first time in ten years California had a balanced budget for the fiscal year starting this week.

The budget for the coming fiscal year adopts a new funding formula for public schools that will send more money to districts with disadvantaged students. It also expands Medicaid so the health care program for low-income residents could grow over the next few years to cover 9.8 million Californians, roughly a quarter of the state’s population. Democratic lawmakers said the move will save lives, keep workers healthy and bring billions of dollars from the federal government into the state.

Although the budget also included a Medicaid expansion, the centerpiece was the new public education funding formula. The way school districts are funded throughout the state has been adjusted to aid in the closure of income-based and race-based achievement gaps.

More than $2 billion has been allocated to help districts move to the new formula which will provide proportionally more funding to districts with high low-income and minority enrollments, as well as those with high proportion of students from non-English-speaking households. In addition, the formula cedes more state control over how money will be spent to the districts themselves.

Democrats say districts will be held accountable for how they spend the money, such as requiring them to create master plans to track the success of English learners. But Republican lawmakers have said the budget package lacks a requirement that the money be used on services and program that have proved effective. Overall, the budget boosts K-12 and community college funding to $55.3 billion. The governor’s budget says that represents an increase of more than $8 billion over the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Pubic schools are not in benefiting from the new budget. The University of California and California State University systems are also in line to receive additional funding – about $250 million in total.