California Set to Boost Education Spend

Budget focus on closing learning gaps for disadvantaged students and nearly $500 million for teacher professional development

California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, is proposing to spend almost $86 billion in his newly released budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, thanks to the state recording a $15 billion budget surplus despite the economic woes of the pandemic.

“The investments we choose must help our schools urgently and immediately recover from this crisis and accelerate learning for the students and families hardest hit by a global pandemic that has deepened historic inequities. Our priorities should not only help our schools emerge safely from the impacts of COVID-19 but should immediately double down on our efforts to level the playing field for a generation of students. I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for proposing a budget that—until our educators, school employees, and communities are vaccinated—addresses main areas of need as public schools consider how to safely resume in-person instruction. Today’s budget proposal also represents a strong start at tackling the growing access and learning gaps experienced most severely among our students of color, low-income households, children with disabilities, and students learning English,” commented California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

According to the governor’s proposal, the $227 billion budget reflects the state’s highest-ever funding level for K-14 schools—approximately $90 billion total, which will expand on multi-year investments for greater equity for students and the broader school community. Targeted investments in special education include $545 million in ongoing funds – building on $1.5 billion over the last two years – and $300 million in ongoing funds for early intervention for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. It includes over $475 million for professional development and investments targeted to address the impacts of the pandemic on students, especially those inequitably impacted. Recognizing the value of in-person settings for both social-emotional and academic development, $2 billion is proposed for immediate action to support and accelerate safe returns to in-person instruction beginning in February, based on a phased-in approach that starts with the youngest students. Recognizing that students will need support that extends beyond the traditional school day or year, $4.6 billion is proposed for action this spring to expand learning opportunities for students, including summer and after-school programs. To address student mental health needs, especially as a consequence of trauma and the pandemic, $400 million is proposed for school-based mental health. All of these funds will prioritize students and communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with funds strongly weighted toward schools serving students from low-income families, foster youth, homeless students, English learners, and others disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

The budget is indicative of sharp reversal of fortune for California from last year, when sales, income, and corporate tax revenues plummeted at the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in a budget deficit of over $50 billion. The state received more revenue than expected over the last year after misjudging the depth of the recession and predicting that the stock market would crash.

In New York, where the fiscal year starts on April 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing an $848.8 million increase in formula-based school aid over 2021 funding of $25.9 billion.

View the entire budget summary (education spending can be found starting on page 57) on the California Department of Finance budget web page.

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