Lawmakers confer to resolve budget differences

Lawmakers confer to resolve budget differences

(Calif.) There are times when the work of the legislative conference committee is relegated to a perfunctory role, leaving gaping holes in the budget plan unaddressed awaiting word from negotiators working with the governor.

This week, however, the joint budget panel—comprised of five members from each house—would appear to have some serious lifting to do in unifying some significant differences in spending between proposals from the state Senate and Assembly.

There is agreement, for instance, that support of the Local Control Funding Formula should be enhanced above the $3.2 billion proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in May.

The budget plan from the Senate would increase LCFF support by $3.5 billion; while the Assembly would increase it by almost $4 billion.

The Assembly would also add $350 million in support for the state’s lowest performing subgroup—currently African American students. The Senate version would add just $150 million for a similar purpose.

One of the other big snags is over career technical education.

Brown proposed in his January budget to shift about $200 million in CTE funding to community colleges to expand an existing regional work force development program so that high school students could participate too.

The Assembly rejected the governor’s CTE plan altogether, and instead proposed to add another $200 million—for a total of $400 million each year–to the existing program that supports CTE.

The Senate version is much closer to what the governor proposed.

Another issue is money to improve the teacher shortage in special education.

The governor also proposed as part of his January budget to fund two programs, both with $50 million. The first is a teacher residency grant to help local educational agencies partner with colleges or universities to prepare and recruit new teachers in special education and provide a match on a dollar for dollar basis.

The other would be a locally-driven grant aimed at funding new and creative ideas for solving special education shortages.

Lawmakers are in agreement with Brown on the first program but both houses rejected his second idea.

Further, the Assembly has proposed adding $200 million to ongoing support for districts that are historically under-funded because of the complex system for dividing money on the local level.

In an overall spending plan that will likely exceed $138 billion, the differences between the Legislative proposals and that of the governor are obviously minor and unlikely to cause much heartburn.

But key education groups are also backing separate spending bills that could also add billions to education budgets.

AB 2808 by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Manhattan Beach, would reset base funding of the Local Control Funding Formula by 60 percent beginning in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

AB 3136 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, calls for $1.3 billion in additional support for special education services over five years, beginning with the first year that the LCFF is fully-funded.

Advocates point out that while Brown has proposed a record $78.4 billion in Proposition 98 spending, he is still providing only the bare minimum required by law.

State coffers received some $8 billion in unanticipated revenue since January and only a fraction of that additional money has been proposed to be shared with schools.

Lawmakers and Brown face a June 15 constitutional deadline for adopting a new budget. more