State budget reflects CSBA advocacy wins

Dedicated advocacy from district and county office board members resulted in gains for California’s students 

After months of advocacy from CSBA and school district and county office of education board members across the state, the final agreement delivered major wins for CSBA’s top priorities. The investments made in the final budget to rebuild the home-to-school transportation program, boost the Local Control Funding Formula base funding, provide attendance relief to counteract the impacts of the pandemic, and ensure the success of expanded school nutrition programs reflect hard-fought advocacy and will improve the lives of California’s students for years to come.

“I’m proud of the consistent effort our members and CSBA’s staff, working with our education partners, put into communicating to the Legislature the dire need for increased base funding, a greater investment in home-to-school transportation, and providing attendance relief due to COVID disruptions,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “Our collective persistence paid off and local educational agencies will see more state funding to support schools.”

school kids hanging out bus windows

Game-changing investment in school transportation

One of the year’s sweetest victories was a major increase for home-to-school transportation, a game changing reversal of decades of disinvestment that reflects months of advocacy from CSBA and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The work of CSBA and its members and partners yielded a historic triumph for schools statewide. Starting in 2022–23, local educational agencies will be able to receive 60 percent of their reimbursable costs for home-to-school transportation programs — an investment that will double what the average district receives. Even better, funding for the program will be continuously appropriated, meaning that money will flow automatically, as it does for LCFF.

All told, transportation funding increased by $637 million in ongoing Proposition 98 funds. The investment will come with new requirements for LEAs, which will need to develop and adopt a plan to prioritize transportation services for low-income students and be prohibited from charging cost-sharing fees for unduplicated pupils, but avoids the unsustainable mandates proposed earlier in the legislative year.

After many years of disinvestment, dedicated advocacy overcame skepticism and resistance to secure an unprecedented opportunity to give millions of students the benefits of school busing, from improved attendance to safer access to school programs and services and less pollution and traffic.

After many years of disinvestment, dedicated advocacy overcame skepticism and resistance to secure an unprecedented opportunity to give millions of students the benefits of school busing.
Critical COVID attendance protections achieved

CSBA’s budget advocacy also secured $2.8 billion in critical protections for declining enrollment and COVID attendance relief. Knowing that without relief schools would lose $3.3 billion in ongoing funding, CSBA pushed for a budget that would recognize the devastating impacts the delta and omicron surges had on attendance during the 2021–22 school year, address declining enrollment and help schools to maintain some semblance of fiscal stability as they emerge from the pandemic.

To accomplish this, CSBA and ACSA proposed allowing LEAs to be funded at the greater of their current year average daily attendance (ADA) or their current year enrollment adjusted for pre-COVID attendance rates for the 2021–22 fiscal year. This plan was adopted in the education budget trailer bill Assembly Bill 181, a major win after the Legislature struck it from the initial budget bill. The final budget offers relief to districts that can demonstrate they offered independent study to students who were absent due to mandated public health quarantine. Declining enrollment protections were also folded into LCFF, allowing school districts to choose one of three options in the calculation of their ADA funding apportionment: current year, prior year, or the average of the three prior years’ ADA. 

Major investment made in the LCFF base

Another major achievement was securing a double-digit increase to LCFF base funding. Despite the oft-cited perception that schools have received a great deal of new revenue over the last several years, CSBA stressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Legislature that the vast majority of those dollars were tied up in new federal and state categorical programs, much of it in one-time money, programs with eligibility restrictions, and competitive programs that many districts lacked the capacity or resources to access or sustain — all while districts were fighting to keep the lights on as the costs of basic operations soared.

The final deal provides a 6.56 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and another $4.32 billion increase to the LCFF base — a cornerstone of CSBA’s budget priorities for this and previous years as schools contend with rapidly increasing costs and other pressures. When combined, the total represents a 13 percent increase in the LCFF base. This new revenue will help schools contend with increased costs and maintain existing operations, remain competitive as they work to recruit and retain high-quality staff, and implement new and innovative educational programs.

Funds secured to ensure expanded school meals success

From the beginning of this budget cycle, CSBA advocated for sufficient funding to allow for a successful expansion of universal school meals. and the initial budget bill included $611.8 million to increase reimbursement rates for school meals under the state’s new universal school meals program. 

The trailer bills built on that funding with additional investments of $600 million in one-time funds 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. $100 million was also dedicated to a 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 meals program. The new investments recognize the costs associated with scaling up staffing and providing additional meals and will allow LEAs to hire and retain staff and successfully implement this important policy goal.

Wins reflect the advocacy of local education leaders

From the hundreds of school and county board members who attended Legislative Action Week in March to dozens of meetings held with the Newsom Administration and key legislators to the thousands of emails sent to local legislators, CSBA and school and county board members across the state worked tirelessly to ensure that this year’s budget truly reflects the needs of California’s students. The 2022 budget cycle was a long and winding road for schools, and it was dedicated advocacy that made this historic budget — and the long-lasting benefits it will have for students across the state — possible.