Few surprises expected for schools in Brown’s new budget
(Calif.) After using the budget process to initiate or support massive policy changes for K-12 education in recent years, Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to give schools a respite when he unveils his 2016-17 spending plan on Thursday.
After ushering in a restructuring of the state-school financial relationship, Brown pushed through new accountability and performance goals, new testing and a full integration of the Common Core State Standards – almost all of it through the budget.
There is a sense around the Capitol that Brown will hit the pause button this year on any major changes, allowing schools time to continue to absorb all the hefty alterations already thrown at them.
If so, attention from school mangers can once again refocus on just the revenue numbers.
Estimates made by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s office in November concluded that the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee will increase in 2016-17 by $2.3 billion over this year to slightly more than $71.4 billion.
Meanwhile, the state controller’s office also reported last month that tax collections for the year were running about even with estimates made when the current budget was signed last summer – so unlike recent years, there’s little chance of any drama sparking up over how much the state has to spend next year.
In keeping with his past spending plans, Brown is expected to pay down debts before considering new programs.
The Proposition 98 “maintenance factor,” for instance, peaked at more than $14 billion in 2012. But through careful management, Brown has reduced the obligation – generated when the minimum guarantee falls below historic funding levels – to just $195 million. The 2016-17 budget is likely to contain that last payment, marking the first time the state has been without a maintenance factor obligation since 2005-06.
The governor has also greatly reduced what the state owes schools on education mandate claims, cutting the backlog by more than $4 billion since taking office. The LAO estimates that there remains a total of $2 billion in mandate claims still pending, most of it – $1.7 billion – owed to K-12 schools and the remaining $300 million to community colleges.
The improving fiscal landscape means that the state’s Local Control Funding Formula obligation will reach the 90 percent mark in 2015-16. The phase-in targets that began in 2013-14 are expected to be at 96 percent by 2019-20.
The LAO does not believe, however, that rising revenues will trigger a controversial spending cap on schools anytime soon, as some fiscal experts had previously thought.
The Public School System Stabilization Account, or PSSSA, was enacted both by a voter initiative passed in 2014 and supporting state legislation. The law imposes a cap on school district reserves in a year following a contribution by the Legislature to the state reserve fund, although there are several conditions that also must be met.
The LAO has said that some of those conditions will be met in 2015-16 but not all of them, including a big jump in revenue that is not in the forecast.