California's budget is a step in the right direction. This year's May revise was met with praise but called for a deeper commitment to ensuring K-12 education moves closer to being fully funded as well as providing relief to school districts combatting competing priorities for scarce resources.
Late last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed Califonia's budget for the 2017-2018 featuring an allocation of 74.5 billion dollars for education. An additional $1.4 billion dollars was committed to the Local Control Funding Formula, bringing the program's funding to 97% of full funding. Districts are also set to receive $877 million in one-time discretionary funds.
This also distribution includes a much needed $50 million dollar increase to after school funding in response to rising wages across the state. In years past, the governor was opposed to committing more dollars to after-school programs and called for school districts to find the answers in their budgets. But as after-school providers began to scale back and or close their doors to families and children, state legislators made a move to increase funding for these vital programs.
Additionally, to combat a looming teacher shortage, $41.3 million dollars was dedicated to recruiting and retaining teachers. The focal point of these efforts will be in special education, math, science, and bilingual education, where teacher shortages have had the greatest impact. An increase of $10.3 million in additional services was allotted to aid and support refugee students.
As LCFF approaches fully funding, legislators are calling for Governor Brown to enact legislation, Assembly Bill 1321, introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Webber, which requires school districts to more closely monitor per-pupil spending of federal, state, and local dollars.
Executive Director, Ryan J. Smith, of The Education Trust-West, an education advocacy organization, based in Oakland, released the following statement on the budget signing.
“The Education Trust-West appreciates Governor Brown and the Legislature enacting a budget that puts more dollars into education,” Smith said. “Fully funding LCFF is one of the most important things we can do to close opportunity and achievement gaps.” Smith also supports calls for the governor enacting Assembly Bill 1321.
Four years after implementation, educators hope LCFF will reach full-funding sooner rather than later.