Historic budget signed by governor
July 12, 2021
California students now have universal free meals and will soon have universal access to transitional kindergarten as part of a historic 2021-22 state budget that is notable both for its size and how it changes the landscape of public education.
The $262.6 billion budget approved by the Legislature June 28 was bolstered by a windfall in tax revenue and billions in federal pandemic relief funds. The state spending plan includes $93.7 billion in Prop. 98 guarantees for K-12 schools — a record-setting investment aimed at helping students recover from trauma and learning loss associated with the pandemic.
Lawmakers indicated that negotiations would continue on several other items that would be settled in trailer bills expected throughout the summer.
The budget represents a compromise between the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revision and the Legislature’s budget, which contained many more solutions to K-12 needs, according to Kevin Gordon, president and partner of Capitol Advisors.
“And now after the negotiation, a lot of that’s been pruned back,” Gordon told administrators during the ACSA Legislative Lunch Break on June 30. “There’s still some victories in there, but there are some major missing pieces that we won’t see until we see the trailer bill.”
One of the unknowns that will be sorted out in trailer bill language is how districts can handle continued distance learning. On July 5, lawmakers released language for AB 130, which would require LEAs to offer an independent study option to students whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction. The bill has not been approved as of press time.
California will be adding another year to K-12 education with universal TK by 2026, with required age cohorts increased in increments of two months of age per year from 2022-23 through 2025-26.
The approved budget also contains a sizable investment in special education by providing $396.8 million in ongoing Prop. 98 funds to increase the statewide target base rate. The rate will be calculated after first applying a 4.05 percent COLA to all SELPAs. Special education will also get a boost from $550 million in one-time general fund money for students with disabilities, with requirements to match funds on a one-to-one basis, use voluntary alternative dispute resolution practices and implement a plan to engage with families.
In another historic policy change, the budget provides ongoing funding to serve free meals to all students, which began in 2020 as a pandemic support to students. Although the feds are chipping in this year, the state will begin picking up the tab in 2022-23 by providing $650 million in ongoing Prop. 98 funding to cover the costs of offering breakfast and lunch to all students.
Gordon said this will relieve schools of a lot of the time and effort spent determining which students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
“This is a very big deal.”
— Kevin Gordon, President and Partner, Capitol Advisors, on free school meals for all students
“Universal feeding is something that, because of the pandemic, we’ve got a lot of experience with and we know from a public policy standpoint, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “State policy makers are doing more on school nutrition than they’ve done in probably 40 years. This is a very big deal.”
Some other highlights for K-12 education in the 2021-22 budget include:
Local Control Funding Formula: Increases the LCFF Base Grant with a 5.07 percent cost of living adjustment. It also increases the LCFF concentration grant formula to 65 percent with $1.1 billion in ongoing funds, for purposes of reducing student to adult ratios.
Deferrals: Provides $11 billion in Prop. 98 funding to fully pay off K-12 apportionment deferral amount.
Expanded learning: Begins with $1 billion in ongoing Prop. 98 funding in 2021-22 for before and after-school programs, targeting all unduplicated pupils in grades TK-6, ultimately growing to $5 billion with full implementation.
Youth behavioral health: Invests $4.4 billion dollars over five years to create a new, modern and innovative behavioral health system for youth up to age 25, including $205 million to fund school and county mental health partnerships.
Educator Effectiveness Block Grant: Provides $1.5 billion in one-time Prop. 98 funds that will be available over five years to provide LEAs with resources to expedite professional development for teachers, administrators and other in-person staff.
Community schools: Provides $3 billion one-time Prop. 98 funding to launch a statewide initiative to build accessible community wellness and student health hubs on more than 1,000 school campuses.
Career Technical Education Incentive Grant: Increases funding for the CTEIG program by $150 million ongoing.
A-G Completion Grants: Provides $557 million in one-time Prop. 98 funding for the A-G Completion Grant Program, which includes funding to improve A-G completion rates through staff development, pupil supports, additional access, high school learning loss, credit recovery and covering AP fees for students.
California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Allows LEAs to administer standards-aligned assessments in place of the CAASPP summative assessments in the 2020-21 school year and receive an apportionment at the rate approved by the State Board of Education.
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