—Written by Penny Arévalo
For the first time in years, funding for education was not the major focus of the governor’s annual January press conference about his proposed budget for the coming year.
Overall, Gov. Brown is suggesting to grow the state budget by 5 percent. In education dollars, that means $6.3 billion more in 2014-15 than this year for all education, $2,188 more per K-12 student over 2011-12 funding.
However, the budget's goal is to “correct historical inequities in school district funding” by spending that money on the neediest students, according to the budget summary released today.
Called the local control funding formula, this was the major change Brown had advocated for several years, finally getting the Legislature on board last year. The formula starts with the state funding every student at the same level, but then gives additional money for low-income students, English language learners and students in foster care.
Additionally, school districts with at least 55 percent of their enrollment made up of these students get additional money.
“By committing the most new funding to districts serving low‑income students, English language learners, and youth in foster care, the budget supports real equal opportunity for all Californians,” says the summary.
Brown told the media: “Education and good health are a way out of poverty.”
Brown is proposing $7,829 per student as a base allocation, which includes cost-of-living adjustments. Then the neediest students get 20 percent more, and the districts that serve mostly those populations would get up to 22.5 percent more.
The long-term goal for school districts which do not have a large number of needy students would be to eventually bring them to pre-recession funding levels, the budget summary says.
One major change in education for 2014-15 the governor proposes is to eliminate all deferrals.
“During the height of the recession, the state deferred almost 20 percent of annual payments to schools, meaning that schools received a significant portion of their funds a year after they spent them,” the budget summary says.
The delayed payment had districts either cut services or take out costly short-term loans to bridge the gaps.
Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public education, praised Brown's plans, but pointed out a few areas that need to be finessed.
"I thank the governor for making education a top priority in the budget. It means a strong starting point for the coming months’ conversations—but work remains to be done," he said in a released statement. "I look forward to discussing with Gov. Brown universal transitional kindergarten ... We must continue our support for schools as they make the switch to the common core state standards."