President’s Message: Mike Walsh
Appreciation for the work done and the work left to do
In the February 2018 issue of this newsletter, I wrote about beginning the year with appreciation, appreciation for selecting me as your President, appreciation for the importance of the office and the responsibility that comes with it, and appreciation — in advance — for all the hard work you were about to do.

Now, as the year and my presidency draw to a close, I want to show appreciation once again. This time, I’m thankful for all the work you’ve done to move the organization forward in 2018. Nowhere has that advocacy been more evident than in the fight for Full and Fair Funding. By now, I’m sure everyone is aware that California has the fifth largest economy in the world and the highest GDP in the nation. While that’s a source of pride, it’s hard to celebrate when that same prosperity has yet to make it to public schools. We are still 41st nationally in per pupil funding, 45th in the percentage of taxable income spent on education, 45th in student-teacher ratios, and 48th in staff per student ratios.  That is why so many of you passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to fund education at the national average by 2020, and the average of the top 10 states by 2025.  

In that same article back in February, I reminded you that CSBA stands as a willing partner with local districts and county offices of education, and works as an ardent advocate on your behalf. That wasn’t just talk. There are so many ways in which CSBA led the fight for public education and local control in 2018. Allow me to highlight just a few.

This year, CSBA co-sponsored AB 2808, legislation that sought to move California toward the national average of $12,256 per-pupil for K-12 education funding. The initial bill would have raised the Local Control Funding Formula base grant targets so that, barring recession, public school funding would approach the national average in approximately five to seven years. Unfortunately, the current version of the bill is less impressive. The amended version of the bill does not add to nor amend the Education Code or raise the LCFF base grant targets. 

This summer, CSBA filed a lawsuit challenging provisions of the 2018–19 state budget. Those provisions allow the state to manipulate the constitutional formula which determines the funding California’s public schools receive. If the unconstitutional provisions are allowed to stand, they could eventually reduce public school revenue by three-quarters of a billion dollars annually.

At the time, I noted that, “What the state has done with Assembly Bill 1825 is provide itself a legal path to take money away from public schools and community colleges – money that is guaranteed to them by the state Constitution — and made a through-the-looking-glass claim that public education in California can be ‘over-appropriated’ at a time when it is, in fact, drastically underfunded.”

Much work remains as the state has shown little appetite for the investments needed to catch up to the rest of the country and provide the resources needed to offer all students a high-quality education. There are many other ways in which the state shortchanges students of needed resources, and some of them go unnoticed.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, readers across the state woke up to an open letter co-written by me and CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. In the letter, we call on the next governor to immediately release the $7 billion in voter-approved funds for K-12 school facilities. The letter appeared in many of the state’s major newspapers and ran on the same day that the San Francisco Chronicle devoted an extensive article to the state’s decision to withhold school facilities funds.

One of my favorite quotes from that article came from CSBA delegate and Fremont USD board member Ann Crosbie. Ann told the paper, “I think it’s very disturbing to put it to a vote and then refuse to actually fund it. We can try to go through the courts about it, but how long is that going to take? The students are here now.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s going to be up to all of us to make sure the next gubernatorial administration moves quickly to release the school facilities funds the voters approved two years ago. If nothing else, we want today’s students to benefit from those funds before they’re old enough to have their own kids in school.

In parting, I thank you for the work you’ve done to ensure that the next generation of students benefits from resources and conditions that are conducive to student success. I also look forward to your continued engagement in 2019 and beyond as we strive to provide a high-quality education for each and every California public school student.