President’s Message: Mike Walsh
The time for Full and Fair Funding is now
I’m sitting at my desk writing this article one week after what many have described as one of the best organized and most impactful Legislative Action Days that CSBA has hosted so far. One person described it by stating that they “had a feeling that their advocacy really made a difference.” Out of 116 current legislators, 104 legislators held a meeting with at least one CSBA member. That alone is a powerful statement on CSBA’s progress toward our goal of being the essential voice of public education in California.

What I believe made the day the most powerful was the unified message we presented — one that any legislator would be hard-pressed to truthfully deny. That critical message is that our state legislature needs to take action towards Full and Fair Funding. Full and fair funding means that funding has to meet the needs of counties and districts, not just meet the minimum requirement of their obligations. This past January, as the Governor unveiled his final budget proposal, he made it very clear that he was proud of his efforts to meet the funding targets for education and the Local Control Funding Formula. While I absolutely appreciate the Governor’s efforts to bring funding back to pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation, this is no time for board members to rest or celebrate.

California has the sixth largest economy in the world. Let that statement sink in for a moment. It’s kind of hard to fathom what it means for one state to have the ability to generate so much revenue and yet spend so little on developing its own future-ready workforce. Over the past few years, I have heard many legislators, at both the state and federal level, explain that the budget is a statement of what we value the most. So how does a state with the sixth largest economy give so little value to education? Why would anyone ever suggest that funding education at a level that places California at a ranking of 41st could possibly be a reflection of our values?

Now to be fair, there are members of the Legislature that understand that current funding is not meeting the costs to prepare students for college and careers, and to be civically engaged members of society. Assembly Bill 2808 (Muratsuchi), which is co-sponsored by CSBA, is one step in moving funding to the national average of $12,526 per-pupil. The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education also wants to add $1.2 billion dollars in funding to the LCFF above the Governor’s current proposal of $3 billion. Those are all great places to start as we move toward meeting the needs of public education.

The list of needs that full and fair funding would allow schools to meet are significant and they’re simple. We are 45th in pupil–teacher ratios. To reach the national average, schools would have to hire an additional 135,000 teachers. We rank 48th in the nation in the ratio of students to all staff members. To solve that problem, we would have to hire an additional 78,700 adults beyond those 135,000 additional teachers. How many districts could use more counselors, nurses, librarians, instructional aides or bus drivers?

Those needs are exacerbated by the impact of rapidly rising pension costs. Even with its funding targets met, LCFF does not account for PERS and STRS costs that are predicted to rise from $497 per student to $1476 per student by 2024. That is a cost, by the way, that was not created by poor fiscal behavior of districts and county offices. That is a cost that was handed to us.

I want to personally call on all districts and county offices of education to pass the CSBA Full and Fair Funding sample resolution. You can pass the resolution as is, or edit it to reflect your local perspective — but I urge you to pass it in some form. While many districts have already approved the resolution, there are still too many that have not done so yet. The work that we are being asked to do on behalf of our 6.2 million students is too important for us not to send a message to our legislative leaders in Sacramento that now is the time for them to show that they truly value education.