2018–19 budget proposal fulfills LCFF funding target
With a steady stream of state revenues filtering in throughout the final weeks of 2017, all eyes in the California education world were focused on the January budget release in anticipation of Gov. Jerry Brown fully funding the Local Control Funding Formula — the signature education law of his second go-round as California’s governor — to hit the LCFF funding target in his final year in office.
Gov. Brown hit that target when he delivered a proposed LCFF investment of approximately $3 billion in his 2018–19 budget proposal. In his final budget, released in January, Gov. Brown again reiterated his call for prudent fiscal planning and safeguarding against a looming recession by bolstering the state’s reserves — a deposit of $3.5 billion maxes out the Rainy Day Fund at the constitutional limit of 10 percent of tax revenues ($13.5 billion).

Beneath the fanfare of LCFF hitting its funding target two years ahead of schedule lies a budget that is sturdy for K-12 education, but still will leave California in the bottom tier nationally for education funding.

“The Governor’s decision to accelerate implementation of LCFF is a welcome development at a time when classrooms across the state are feeling the effects of rising transportation, utility, health care and benefits costs,” said CSBA President Mike Walsh in a Jan. 10 statement. “But it isn’t enough to lift us from the bottom of the national rankings measuring support for public schools. California’s current status as 41st in per-pupil funding and last or next-to-last in nearly every school staffing metric is unacceptable.”

“California once led the nation in its commitment to the full and fair funding of public education. Unfortunately, that has not been the case since the 1970s. This underinvestment makes it extremely challenging to provide the 21st-century education needed to prepare our students for an increasingly competitive global economy.”

— CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy

The proposed 2018–19 Proposition 98 guarantee is $78.3 billion, an increase of $3.1 billion over the 2017–18 level; last year’s guarantee is adjusted upward in this budget by $700 million, to $75.2 billion. On average, per-pupil spending from Proposition 98 will be raised by $465 per student over last year.

While early estimates predicted that 2018–19 would be a Proposition 98 Test 2 year, it is now currently projected as a Test 3 year. The three levels (or “Tests”) of Proposition 98 each dictate a different criteria by which the guarantee is calculated, based on a variety of economic conditions; Test 3 years typically occur when state revenues stall or growth slows, allowing a lower level of K-12 funding. A Test 3 designation for 2018–19 — a year that boasts increasing state revenues — raises concerns that the proposed Proposition 98 guarantee is not as high as it should be, and that the prior budget year’s suspension of supplemental Test 3B payments (which are otherwise required in a Test 3 year) has now come into play.

Additional concerns in the budget proposal revolve around the release of Proposition 51 facilities bond funds, approved by voters in 2016. While the proposal calls for $640 million in bond authority for 2018–19, CSBA continues to advocate for the expedited release of the $7 billion in bond funds authorized by Proposition 51 — $3 billion each for new construction and modernization, and $500 million each for Career and Technical Education facilities and charter facilities.

Favorable aspects of the budget proposal include $70 million in ongoing support for California’s new accountability system (including $55 million for county offices of education), and $100 million for two initiatives targeted towards recruiting and retaining special education teachers. A package of several initiatives to address the teacher shortage from the prior two budget years does not receive additional funding.

For Career and Technical Education, the budget adds $200 million to an already existing $248 million in funding for the Strong Workforce Program, which is administered at the community college level but would offer an expanded K-12 component under this proposal. An additional investment of $12 million goes to fund local industry experts providing CTE technical support to local educational agencies.

A total of $120 million ($100 million one-time, $20 million ongoing) is also proposed for the creation of the California Online College, an online-only community college — the program is currently targeted toward working adults age 25 to 34, but it will not preclude dual enrollment for K-12 students.

CSBA will remain actively engaged in budget negotiations at the Capitol throughout the spring, leading up to the release of the May Revision.

“We expect to work with this Governor and his successor,” Walsh said, “as well as the public and education stakeholders, to advance toward the full and fair funding needed to prepare all students for success in college, career and civic life.”

Visit www.csba.org/legislativenews for additional updates on the 2018–19 budget throughout the spring.