President’s Message: Emma Turner
Schools receive pension relief: CSBA spoke and the Governor listened

It’s always nice to have your hard work validated by others. It’s even nicer when the person recognizing your efforts is the Governor of California. During Gov. Gavin Newsom’s inaugural budget proposal address, he let everyone know what a strong impression CSBA made on the subject of pension relief. In the Governor’s own words: “I will never forget our school boards association meeting, where they almost, quite literally, didn’t want to talk about anything else.”

Gov. Newsom couldn’t help but shake his head and chuckle as he recalled the tenacity our members displayed. Evidently, the message was received because the Governor’s budget proposal includes what he described as $3 billion of “immediate relief to school districts to address their STRS anxiety.”

That’s welcome funding for one of the most pressing issues facing California school districts. That’s $3 billion (nearly $500 per student) in additional monies we can direct to the classrooms to support instruction, boost student achievement, improve school climate, and close opportunity and achievement gaps. It’s a huge win for our students and a powerful testament to CSBA’s might as an advocate for the state’s public schools.

The good news in the Governor’s budget didn’t stop there; despite modest growth to the Proposition 98 guarantee, he proposed a higher- than-expected 3.46 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) and the release of some school bond construction funds the previous administration withheld for two years. Newsom also outlined investments in early education and health care that have the potential to bolster the physical and mental health of our students, as well as their readiness for school when they reach kindergarten.

It’s clear that the Governor has not only heard, but also internalized some of the most pressing issues facing school districts. He has identified the challenges and made a commitment to addressing them. Considering this was Gov. Newsom’s initial budget as Governor and it came on the heels of stock market turmoil in the final quarter of 2018, his proposal must be regarded as a solid first step.

As I told the media assembled outside the Secretary of State Office Auditorium where Gov. Newsom gave his speech, “We are encouraged by Gov. Newsom’s first budget, particularly his commitment to the Local Control Funding Formula, school construction, services for young children and families, and recognition of the challenges facing school districts in the form of rising costs for pensions and special education. The Governor has demonstrated an appreciation of the critical issues facing public schools as we work to provide the next generation of Californians with the tools needed to expand our prosperity and ensure that every Californian can participate meaningfully in and benefit from our society.”

It was gratifying to see many of the suggestions we made to the Governor, both in personal meetings as well as briefing documents, addressed in some way. But we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to keep the pressure on and capture more victories on issues related to the conditions of children, student achievement, equity, funding and finance, and local control.

We have arrived — in no small part because of your efforts — at the long-awaited moment where the public’s attention turns to education and people begin to process the tragic consequences of disinvesting from our public schools. I urge you to redouble your efforts and seize this moment on behalf of California’s 6.2 million public school students. Our students deserve it and we owe it to them.