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Governor Rolls Out May Budget Revision

Brown Seeks $240 Million Addition to LCFF, Plus $1 Billion in Funding to Implement Common Core

Jeff Hudson - May 15, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown released his May Budget Revision on Tuesday, and the updated version of the Governor’s January budget proposal included more funding for K-12 education in several areas.
The Governor proposed gradually increasing the Proposition 98 guarantee by more than $19 billion by 2016-17, with a boost of about $1,046 more per pupil in 2013-14 (as compared to 2011-12), and an increase of $2,754 per pupil by 2016-17.

The Governor also proposed a one-time allocation of $1 billion – or about $170 per pupil – to assist districts as they implement the new Common Core academic standards. This money would come with some flexibility, and could be used to pay for professional development, technology enhancements, and instructional materials.

The May Budget Revision also proposes an additional $240 million in first-year funding for the Governor’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) as compared to the January budget proposal, raising the LCFF total to $1.9 billion. The Governor said this would provide additional resources to the state’s neediest students.

“When fully implemented, it is projected that the formula will spend 80 cents of every dollar on base grants for every school district, 16 cents in supplemental funding for every English Learner, student from a low income family or foster child in a district, and 4 cents for those districts who have a particularly high concentration of these students,” according to a statement from the Governor’s press office, repeated in subsequent briefings. “While the concentration funds represent only a small portion of the total dollars, they are critically important to those districts with the greatest challenges. Additionally, the May Revision strengthens the proposal’s accountability measures to ensure that the targeted student populations benefit from the funds.

Karen Stapf Walters, executive director of the State Board of Education, said at a briefing for education reporters that “what we’re asking (districts) to do is come up with a local plan, outlining out they’re going to use the (LCFF) money for services for students.” These district plans would be reviewed by the County Office of Education (much as district budgets are reviewed), and if problems arise, there would be a third-party analysis by FCMAT (the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team), potentially leading up to action by the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “We’ve got various tiers of intervention in order to get the money flowing in the right direction and make sure that what the district says they’re doing is actually what they’re doing with the extra funding,” Stapf Walters said.

Introducing the May Budget Revision at a press conference, Brown took a somewhat more conciliatory stance than he adopted several weeks ago, when Brown responded to an alternative budget proposal by Senate Democrats by saying “This is a matter of equity and civil rights, so if they are going to fight it (the LCFF proposal), they’re going to get the battle of their lives.”

Brown sounded less combative on Tuesday, saying “This budget builds a solid foundation for California’s future by investing in our schools.”

But in his unscripted remarks, Brown did get in a dig at the concerns about the LCFF that have been expressed by affluent coastal school districts (in most cases represented by Democratic legislators, who have worried that they will ultimately end up with a smaller slice of the budget pie. In a sound bite widely broadcast on Wednesday morning, Brown quipped “Ask somebody in Beverly Hills or Palo Alto or Piedmont, ‘Would you like to move to Compton? Would you like to move to Watts?’ And if they say ‘Yeah, let’s do it because I want to get the extra money (for schools),’ then I’ll believe it.”

Brown’s May Budget Revision – which actually proposes about $1.3 billion less in overall state spending as compared to the original January budget proposal – reflects a more cautious fiscal stance than many had expected, given the rosy state revenue figures released on May 8 by State Controller John Chiang. The Controller reported the state had received $4.6 billion more in March than anticipated in the January budget proposal.

Brown played down the sense of euphoria that sprang up in some quarters following Chiang’s announcement, saying “the state has climbed out of a (budget) hole” but adding “this is not the time to break out champagne.” And while the May Budget Revisions does include more money for education, it did not include more money for the courts (triggering a statement of disappointment from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye), no more money for the new medical school at UC Riverside (triggering a statement of disappointment from the California Medical Association), no more money for state enterprise zones, etc. The Governor’s staff suggested that concern about federal sequestration, payroll tax changes, and the possibility of a European recession might slow down California’s economic recovery played into the Governor’s smaller-than-expected spending in the May Budget Revision.

“Everybody wants to see more spending,” Brown said. “That’s what this place (Sacramento) is: It’s a big spending machine. You need something? Come here and see if you can get it. Well, but I’m the backstop at the end, and I’m going to keep this budget balanced as long as I’m around here if I can.”

The Governor’s cautious fiscal stance drew something resembling praise from Republican Senate leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), who noted “The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected… We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises… It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list….”

The Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) began his response by saying “Overall, the May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.”

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true,” Steinberg continued.

But Steinberg added that he differs with the Governor on several points. “I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians,” Steinberg said, citing recent cuts to courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction,” Steinberg continued, “but our serious concern about how it is accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs.” Steinberg’s office simultaneously released a list of “405 California schools who would not qualify for the administration’s LCFF formula concentration grants because they’re within school districts whose overall level of disadvantaged students is fewer than 50 percent.”

Now, “the budget debate begins in earnest,” Steinberg said.

Cindy Marks, president of the California School Boards Association (CSBA), said “Most of the Governor’s message is welcomed news… However, the Governor’s proposal doesn’t address restoration (of past cuts and deferrals). Restoration is critical to the future of schools and students. CSBA will make our case before the Governor and the Legislature… without an increase of base funding, local educational agencies will be unable to restore needed programs and services that benefit all students.”

CSBA applauded the Governor’s proposal for a one-time $1 billion allocation to support implementation of the Common Core standards, but also noted that the California Department of Education estimates that the cost of implementation will be $3.1 billion statewide. Marks called for “long-term funding solutions” in addition to a one-time fiscal pledge.

David Gomez, president of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), said “We are very pleased that Gov. Brown has (included) this one-time funding” for Common Core. “Schools are still dealing with the effects of the massive budget cuts of recent years, so this funding is desperately need.”

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association (CTA), said “Allocating $1 billion to help local school districts implement the Common Core standards is great and welcome news… the money is needed to provide training, professional development, textbooks and materials. The transition to Common Core will dramatically impact how teachers teach. Educators must have the support and resources they need in order for the new standards to be implemented effectively.”

Vogel’s statement also seemed to echo aspects of Sen. Steinberg’s remarks. Vogel said “CTA continues to support the goals of Gov. Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula as we believe every student is entitled to educational equality and appreciate the recognition that it costs more money to educate students with higher needs. We will review the proposed changes and will continue to work with the Governor and legislators to ensure all concerns are addressed, including accountability, use of accurate data in determining funding levels and timing of implementation. We look forward to having many more discussions in the next few weeks as the state budget it finalized.”

Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget Project, said “The May Revision improves on the Governor’s January budget proposal in some ways, while also underscoring the daunting challenges still facing our state. The May Revision… affirms the Governor’s proposal to restructure school finance and to provide additional dollars for districts with high concentrations of disadvantaged students. At the same time, the Governor’s revised budget reflects an outlook for the coming year that’s worse than expected, due to recent federal actions and weak economic growth… The budget realities underlying the May Revision show why California needs to work toward a long-term approach that strengthens state and local revenues and makes the necessary investments in our economy and our communities.”

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust—West (which has advocated for more resources for low-income students and English Learners) said “We are pleased that the Governor remains committed to his Local Control Funding Formula proposal that would transform California’s antiquated and inequitable education finance system to a system based on student need. We similarly pleased that the Governor has strengthened his LCFF proposal to increase fiscal transparency and help ensure that supplementary and concentration funding benefits low-income students and English Learners.” Ramanathan also praised the one-time allocation for Common Core implementation.

Brett McFadden, Chief Business Officer with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, told EdBrief that “Number wise, we should fare well out of the Local Control Funding Formula.” Pajaro Valley serves a swath of the Monterey Bay Area extending from Aptos through Watsonville and into North Monterey County, and the district has high percentages of students who are English Learners and come from low-income households. “But I’m not necessarily convinced that this particular idea is the best thing around,” McFadden said. “I am philosophically in support of the proposal, it makes sense (that way). But the mechanics of the Governor’s proposal have serious fundamental flaws that need to be addressed in order to make this a viable measure. And even then, we won’t be entirely sure how this is going to work. I think we have to recognize that you don’t overturn a (financing) system that’s been built over decades in a couple months. It would be the biggest single change in the history of public education in this state, dwarfing Common Core or standards-based reform. There are at least a dozen technical and mechanical components to this proposal that need to be addressed.”

McFadden added “With the natural growth that we will have in the California economy, and therefore in Prop. 98, over the next ten years, I’m not convinced that we wouldn’t get to the same point funding wise.”

“So do the Legislature and the Governor need to have this debate on a Local Control Funding Formula?” McFadden asked rhetorically, and then answered “Oh yes, they do. But with the May Revision this week, things became more cloudy, not less. And all of us (who run business offices in school districts) are within six weeks having to put in place a district budget. We don’t entirely know what to do.”

In the meantime, school districts should probably start thinking about the best way they might use the estimated $170 per pupil for Common Core implementation, since it appears almost all stakeholders in the state budget process have embraced that proposal.

Dr. Bonnie Drolet, Southern California Regional Director for Total School Solutions, said “Professional development for teachers and administrators is primary on the list of things that must be done, and done soon! Teachers are being asked to make a dramatic shift to a more rigorous set of standards; changing their teaching style to include more collaboration, creativity and critical thinking; and modify existing textbooks and materials to align with the new standards. Districts throughout the state have wondered how they were going to be able to accomplish this task with few funds for professional development and given the few days when teachers aren’t with students. With the Governor’s recommendation, it is now possible to meet the 2014-15 deadline for Common Core implementation and be prepared for the new Smarter Balanced Assessment.”

Tim McClure, Director of Professional Development with Total School Solutions, said “It is essential that students in California learn to collaborate, communicate, and become creative and critical thinkers. This is what Common Core is all about. Our students need to develop these 21st Century Learner skills so they will be prepared to succeed in college and in their careers. These new standards for English/language arts and mathematics, along with the Literacy Standards for grades 6-12, will help teachers and administrators develop curriculum that will challenge and engage our students. Transitioning to effective implementation of Common Core will not be easy; districts need these new resources the Governor has proposed to provide the professional development and technical assistance educators will need to accomplish a change of this magnitude.”

“Total School Solutions is ready with a range of professional development opportunities, set at levels one, two and three, to provide the guidance and support districts will need to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan that will result in a strong Common Core program,” McClure continued.

Tina Burkhart, Director of District Support Services with Total School Solutions, added “Many districts are struggling to address the technology hardware and infrastructure needed for students to master Common Core English/language arts standards, math standards and career standards.

In addition, Burkhart observed, “Many districts also need current technology to access online standards testing. The need for technology funding comes at a time when many districts have been forced to significantly reduce their technology hardware and support funding. Additional funding for Common Core implementation will allow districts to begin addressing their technology needs.”

Editor's Note:  Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media