Lawmakers call for increased spending for CTE and early learners

Lawmakers call for increased spending for CTE and early learners

(Calif.) While early reviews gave Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision high marks, bipartisan leaders of a key fiscal panel said Tuesday they will fight for a significant increase for career technical education spending.

Brown proposed in January to add $200 million in ongoing support to help local education agencies develop or expand CTE programs that are aligned with in-demand industries and regional workforce needs. But his revised plan, released last Friday, did not put any additional funds into the program.

Members of the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance said at Tuesday’s hearing that the $200 million is less than half of what they had previously asked for.

“The number we had discussed before was a lot bigger than $200 million,” said Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, vice chair of the committee. “So I have concerns with that, because (the number we suggested) was $500 million, and a bunch of us signed on to that.”

Looking to Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento and chair of the subcommittee, Chavez asked if the committee was “in agreement that we’re going to be pushing back on CTE.”

“Yup,” McCarty said. “This committee suggested a higher number.”

Both Chavez and McCarty had signed on as co-authors of AB 1743, which would establish ongoing funding for CTE programs in K-12 schools at $500 million per year. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, received bi-partisan support from about 25 lawmakers who signed on as co-authors, but stalled last month in the Assembly’s appropriations committee largely because of assumptions that the governor was prepared to add in the money through the budget process.

O’Donnell, who is also a member of the budget subcommittee on education finance and chair of the education committee itself, said the funding provided in the bill would ensure more students have access to CTE programs that better prepare them for life after graduation, whether that includes college or leads straight to a career.

He noted that although the Legislature has allocated significant funding for CTE in recent years, those funding streams are due to expire, while the need for the programs remains strong.

Members of the Assembly’s budget subcommittee on education finance seemed to be in agreement.

In addition to McCarty and Chavez, Rep. Randy Voepel, R-Santee, also signed on as a co-author of O’Donnell’s bill.

In a separate development, committee members signaled they would push for additional funding for early education.

Overall, the May revision reduces total child care and preschool funding by $40 million, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. That said, the LAO did note that Brown’s proposal would increase CalWORKs Child Care Spending by $104 Million in 2018-19–an amount analysts reported is based on estimates that child care caseloads have increased while the cost of care has decreased.

Deputy legislative analyst Jennifer Kuhn told lawmakers that CalWORKs childcare cost estimates are coming in much higher than expected–largely due to policy changes made last year to expand eligibility to families who earn more than the state’s prior income eligibility threshold.

“The estimates at the time of what it would cost to do these things weren’t particularly good, so the costs are coming in substantially higher,” Kuhn said. “We think the cost is probably at least $50 million more (than the $104 million proposed), and this is using our conservative estimates–it could come in at $75 million or more.”

Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, said that lawmakers have been asking for an increase in funding for early childhood education and care for a long time, and questioned why the governor’s office hadn’t included a recent $250 million federal investment targeting early childhood programs in California in the May revision.

Representatives from the Department of Finance said they are waiting on federal guidance to be issued so that they have a better idea of what the money can be spent on.

McCarty, who also had questioned where the federal allocation would be spent, highlighted the need for such funding if the state is to create more opportunities for children to participate in high-quality early learning.

“We’ve been having public comment here for six months on the number of families that are in need and kids trying to get into quality childcare and pre-K programs,” McCarty said “We know that there’s going to be a request that the Legislature expend a significant amount of money in funding early education.”

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