This article was written by Carol Kocivar, California State PTA’s Legislative Advocate.
The proposed California budget for next year targets significant funding to help children, youth and families recover from the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. This includes more money for housing, health, small businesses, low income families and education.
While the budget picture is unexpectedly rosy this year, projections are for lean years ahead. Because of this, the budget also socks away money for a rainy day to avoid deep cuts in future years.
Investments in Education
The Governor proposes to use some of this year’s economic windfall for three big education priorities
Pay Down Deferrals
What does this mean? Last year, the state did not have enough money to pay schools the full amount of money they were owed. So they delayed making full payments to schools for the year. This is called a deferral. Last year’s budget deferred $12.5 billion in payments to schools and community colleges. The Governor proposes to pay down $8.4 billion of this in 2021-22. Slightly more than $4 billion would remain deferred until 2022-23.
Money to Open Schools and Expanded Learning
The budget proposes one-time grants totaling $2 billion to help schools offer in-person instruction. These grants can be used for:
- Salaries for certificated or classified employees providing in-person instruction or services
- Social and mental health support services provided in conjunction with in-person instruction
- COVID-19 testing
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Ventilation and other site upgrades necessary for health and safety
Education organizations want funding for health, safety and testing to be paid with non Prop 98 funds, such as federal money.
Also in the budget is $4.6 billion in grants for additional academic support targeting disadvantaged students. This could include summer school, longer school days, community learning hubs, and other locally developed interventions. Expanded learning is a long-time PTA priority.
Cost of Living Adjustment
Last year there was not enough money to pay for an increase in the cost of living for education. This year the state is making up for this by giving a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) of $2.2 billion ongoing.
Other Education Investments
K-12 per-pupil spending is projected to increase from $12,354 this year to $12,648 next year. Other education investments include:
- Money to support pension payments
- Training and recruitment for teachers and other educators
- Special education services for infants, toddlers and preschool
- Community schools
- Student mental health
- Early education
- School to career data system
Investments Outside of Education
The budget makes significant investments that support children, youth and families who suffered from the economic consequences of the pandemic. California’s unemployment rate increased from a record low of 3.9% in February to a record high of 16.4% in April and May. Small businesses struggled to stay afloat. The budget provides a variety of investments to create a financial recovery. Among the important supports for families is the Golden State Stimulus, a proposed tax refund for low-income earners who suffered economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic recovery investment includes vaccine distribution, preparing and expanding the health care system for a surge of cases, protecting at-risk populations, and emergency response activities.
You can find additional details about budget investments below: