Budget trailer bills respond to CSBA advocacy
Deal addresses COVID ADA relief, home-to-school transportation and LCFF base funding

The 2022 budget cycle was a long and winding road for schools, as an initial budget bill — Senate Bill 154 — that offered few details faded into weeks of last-minute bargaining between the stakeholders, the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom. After months of dedicated advocacy from CSBA and local education leaders across the state, the final agreement — signed into law by the Governor just one day before the new fiscal year started on July 1 — provides significant and key wins for schools on Local Control Funding Formula funding, COVID attendance relief and home-to-school transportation.

These wins were long fought and are the result of consistent and effective advocacy by every school board member across the state who participated in CSBA’s advocacy, from Legislative Action Week to the multiple phone, email and advocacy campaigns organized by CSBA staff. Without this collective effort, these significant achievements would not have been realized.

Initial budget bill left major issues on the table
Key issues for schools remained unresolved in SB 154, most notably the CSBA-ACSA proposal for COVID attendance relief. The proposal, which Gov. Newsom adopted in his May Budget Revision but the Legislature initially rejected, suggested allowing all local educational agencies to be funded at the greater of their current year average daily attendance (ADA) or their current year enrollment adjusted for pre-COVID-19 absence rates in the 2021–22 fiscal year. Also missing was CSBA’s request to adequately fund home-to-school transportation as proposed in Assembly Bill 2933 (O’Donnell, D-Long Beach). These issues were up for negotiation as talks continued leading up to the summer recess.
CSBA advocacy yields wins in budget trailer bills
The education budget trailer bills released on June 26, AB 181 and AB 182, offered much more detail for education stakeholders. The bulk of the TK-12 budget was covered in the omnibus education bill, AB 181, with AB 182 laying out the details for a $7.9 billion one-time Learning Recovery Emergency Fund.

An impressive win for schools is a desperately needed boost in funding for home-to-school transportation, reflecting CSBA’s push to address California’s decades-long disinvestment in the program. Starting in 2022–23, LEAs will be able to receive 60 percent of their reimbursed costs for home-to-school transportation programs as a continuous appropriation — a major win for a program that currently provides districts with an average of just 30 percent of costs.

three school aged kids stand together in a cheer
The budget increases funding for home-to-school transportation by $637 million in ongoing Proposition 98 funding and will provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The funding will come with new requirements that LEAs develop and adopt a plan to provide transportation services to students and be prohibited from charging cost-sharing fees for unduplicated pupils.

Another major achievement for CSBA’s budget advocacy is a double-digit increase to the LCFF base. The final deal provides a 13 percent overall increase in the LCFF, including a 6.56 percent COLA. Above and beyond the statutorily required COLA, the state will provide a $4.32 billion increase to the LCFF base — a cornerstone of CSBA’s budget priorities for this year as schools contend with rapidly increasing costs and other pressures.

Also reflecting CSBA’s advocacy, the final budget deal included $2.8 billion to support protections for declining enrollment and COVID attendance relief. Declining enrollment protections were folded into in the LCFF by allowing school districts to consider their current year, prior year or the average of the three prior years’ ADA in funding calculations. The CSBA-ACSA COVID ADA proposal was also adopted with some limits, offering relief to districts that can demonstrate they offered independent study to students who were absent due to a mandated public health quarantine.

$7.9 billion provided for new Learning Recovery Emergency Fund

The final deal includes $7.9 billion in one-time Proposition 98 funds for a new Learning Recovery Emergency Fund aimed at bolstering schools’ learning recovery initiatives. The funding will be allocated based on each LEA’s unduplicated pupil count for use through the 2027–28 school year. Schools can use the funds for a variety of learning recovery strategies, including:

  • Actions that increase or stabilize the amount of instructional time and services provided to pupils, including summer or intersessional instructional programs, or decreases or stabilizes staff-to-pupil ratios based on pupil learning needs.
  • The implementation, expansion or enhancement of learning supports.
  • Addressing other barriers to learning, including health, counseling and mental health services, school meals or programs to address trauma.
Ongoing support for universal meals
The initial budget bill included $611.8 million to increase reimbursement rates for school meals under the state’s new universal school meals program, offsetting the anticipated expiration of the federal waiver allowing higher federal meal reimbursement rates. The trailer bills committed additional investments of $600 million in one-time Proposition 98 General Fund for kitchen infrastructure grants to support LEAs in preparing for universal meals implementation, and the preparation of healthy, local, plant-based and dietary-restricted meals. Schools will also receive $100 million Prop 98 General Fund for one-time school meals Food Best Practices procurement grant, with eligible foods including California-grown, plant-based and special dietary-restriction necessities for students in the existing universal school meal program.
Missed opportunities on pensions, TK facilities
Despite major wins, the final deal did not specifically address CSBA’s priorities on school employer pension contribution relief and the need for dedicated TK facilities funding. The budget does not provide targeted and continued relief for school employers as they face a $1.2 billion dollar increase in pension rates starting July 1, and despite the overall boost to school funding these costs will cut into schools’ ability to serve students.

And while the budget did provide $650 million one-time General Fund for the California Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten and Full-Day Kindergarten Facilities Grant Program and $1.3 billion General Fund for the School Facility Program, these funds are split between many competing priorities. TK classrooms differ from typical classrooms in many ways, from in-class restrooms and separate play yards to proximity to drop-off/loading areas and the height of furniture — all of which require dedicated funding. LEAs are racing against the clock to construct and prepare facilities, and without specific funding for TK facilities, schools may struggle to scale up in time to fulfill the state’s goals for universal TK expansion.

What’s next?
With the budget now in the rear-view mirror, the Legislature is in recess until Aug. 1. When they reconvene, it will be a flat-out sprint to send bills to the Governor and conclude all legislative business before the two-year 2021–22 legislative session ends on Aug. 31.