by California State PTA Legislation Team
In January PTA leaders from throughout California attended an online briefing about Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently released proposal for the 2023-24 State Budget. Watch the full briefing. Attendees heard about the implications for public education from Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, a school finance expert, and a longtime friend of California State PTA. What follows is a summary of his remarks.
“This budget is amazingly good for public education!” ~ Kevin Gordon
Kevin Gordon’s enthusiastic review of the recently released budget highlighted the many investments in public education that he and the California State PTA have long advocated for:
- School transportation investments
- 13.62% adjustment to schools’ base funding through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)
- Increase in base funding for special education
- Addition of an entire grade level (transitional kindergarten) to the K-12 system
- Expansion of school meals
- Expanded learning opportunities
As Gordon noted, “This is the best budget, without question, that I’ve seen in my entire career.”
The Governor’s budget focuses on ongoing investment for TK-12 schools, and one question will be whether the economy can sustain the investment. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) in November 2022, projected $12-14 billion less revenue than the Governor’s office. “I am cautiously optimistic,” says Gordon, and he notes what could affect the prognosis is a worsening economy, but there is a safety net – the $8.5 billion education rainy day fund reserves plus the $32 billion general fund rainy day reserves.
What is key in this budget, according to Gordon, is that the Governor preserves not just the rollout and funding, but the implementation of several multi-year programs created in recent years.
The Governor’s proposal is based on a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) or inflation index increase of 8.1% (starting July 1, 2023). The LAO suggested that the inflation index would be 8.7%. The Governor’s budget seeks to ensure that the COLA is fully funded, even at the higher LAO projected rate. If fully funded, this would be the largest statutory COLA increase in recent memory.
Gordon went on to identify several areas of budget opportunity:
Gordon recognized PTA’s long-standing commitment to the arts and music in public education. Two block grants went to school districts in 2022-23. One block grant was $8 billion predicated on kids that are in poverty. The other was a $3.6 billion discretionary one-time block grant, “Art, Music, and Instructional Materials.” School districts were allowed to use the latter grant to address unfunded mandates for covering retirement and pension costs. Many school districts are, in fact, using the money for pensions.
The Governor’s budget proposes cutting off $1.2 from that one-time block grant in the middle of the 2023-24 school year, which is a problem for these districts.
Gordon views this as a proposal and suggests that the administration is open to ideas. Gordon proposes that there are appropriations for zero-emissions vehicles that could be allocated instead of the unfunded retirement costs mandate.
School district leaders are aware that Proposition 28 will provide permanent art and music funding beginning in 2024. The Governor is contemplating an adjustment to the Proposition 98 base that would start in July 2024 to fund Proposition 28. The majority of Proposition 28 funding must be spent on personnel salaries.
Budget allocation for STRS/PERS.
Next year’s budget proposal currently has no money to help school districts fund STRS/PERS, the teacher, and public employee retirement systems. The lack of funding eats into the inflation budget provided by the legislature.
Proposed Changes to the Local Control Funding Formula.
The Governor’s budget reflects a study of the inception of LCFF and the identification of student achievement gaps. While LCFF provides additional funding for certain kids, the needs of the lowest performing subgroup, Black kids, are not being recognized. “That needs to be an imperative,” said Gordon. One of the issues is that students located in concentration school sites, but not district concentration sites, are being overlooked. The Governor’s budget proposes $300 million in permanent, ongoing money to address the cost of this proposed change to LCFF and augment resources for the highest-need schools.
The Governor’s budget proposes a multi-year plan to fund school construction: $1.3 billion in 2022-23 plus $2 billion from the state’s general fund (not from Proposition 98). In the third year, the money would total $800 million. Rather than relying on state school bonds to match with locally passed school bonds, this budget proposal sustains the Governor’s commitment to school facilities, funded through the state’s general fund.
Gordon said there is still a major imperative to pass legislation that would place a bond on the March 2024 ballot for school facilities funding.
Senior enrichment opportunities.
The budget proposal also includes one-time money of about $200 to provide every senior with money for enrichment opportunities during their senior year for arts and music experiences.
Gordon concluded by encouraging PTAs to continue advocating for vital supports for kids like making sure that students do not come to school hungry; challenging the mid-year cuts to the arts and music budget; ensuring STRS/PERS are funded; and reviewing the non-Proposition 98 side of the budget that affects the well-being of families in the areas of health and housing.
For more detail on the context and implications of the Governor’s Budget Proposal, see the Capitol Advisors Group opinion piece in this publication from the Small Districts Association (SDA).