Legislative Analyst’s Office report pros and cons in Governor’s education budget
In a new Proposition 98 analysis of 2018–19 state budget, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending proposals were a good start but some issues demanded more attention.

“The Governor’s approach is reasonable but some specific proposals do not address root issues,” the LAO report concluded.

Gov. Brown’s budget for Proposition 98 spending includes $5 billion for K-12 funding, increasing per-student funding from $11,165 to $11,628 for 2018–19. That $5 billion would be used for a mix of ongoing and one-time initiatives to reduce the likelihood of programmatic cuts if a recession takes place. While the LAO approved of this approach, it expressed concern about “underlying problems” in the Local Control Funding Formula, district support, special education teacher shortages and career and technical education. The agency report suggested alternatives to address these issues in less costly ways than the proposals by Gov. Brown, stressing its role as an advisor to the Legislature.

The LAO’s recommendations included:

  • More LCFF guidance from legislators on funding rates for English learners and other disadvantaged students;
  • A more strategic approach to retiring the K-12 mandate backlog such as distributing funds on a per-student basis and requiring districts to write off all remaining claims in exchange for receiving one-time discretionary grants;
  • Funding CTE under the LCFF and modifying the existing incentive grant program while aligning coursework to regional workforce needs; and
  • Establishing pay increases for special education teachers, streamlining credentialing and establishing a four-year special education degree.

Additionally, the LAO made suggestions for the LCFF and the statewide system of school support. For the LCFF, the report approved of Gov. Brown’s proposal to reach target funding two years ahead of schedule by providing $2.9 billion. But it rejected another proposal to have districts specify how their spending aligns with the Local Control and Accountability Plan, saying it was unnecessary and added to an already lengthy document.

The LAO also rejected the Governor’s $76 million proposal for the statewide system of support. Instead, the agency recommended a greater role for the California Collaborative on Educational Excellence. This role would involve the CCEE hiring experts to help districts in need of support. The report suggested the CCEE should receive $30 million to fund this initiative and related grants and trainings.

Looking ahead to a looming concern about pension funding, the LAO report recommended more flexibility for districts to plan for higher costs based on local priorities. To help offset the potential crisis, LAO proposed modifying the use of one-time discretionary grants so districts can use them to make pension payments. The agency also encouraged Gov. Brown make an additional CalSTRS payment of at least several hundred million dollars to provide districts with relief during the next economic downturn.

These LAO suggestions will be considered in the next few months as the Legislature considers the Governor’s proposal and prepares a final 2018–19 budget ahead of a June deadline. The agency also noted its findings were based on a Test Three budget year — signifying lower economic growth — but recent market strength has edged revenues closer to the stronger economic cycle of Test Two, which should mean additional revenues for the May budget revision.

“The proposals raise interesting options, some of which the Legislature will accept or reject in favor of their own ideas,” said CSBA Legislative Advocate Teri Burns. “LAO’s recommendations to continue funding the Local Control Funding Formula beyond the initial target are heartening and CSBA supports this focus on local control. We need to continue reinforcing the message to our legislators that LCFF is working and needs to continue. Citing the LAO in this regard will be a big help.”