Newsom’s school budget should get some applause

Newsom’s school budget should get some applause

(Calif.) Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first proposed budget will no doubt win some friends within the education community.

In addition to proposing a record $80.7 billion in the minimum school funding guarantee, the governor would also provide $3 billion to districts in pension relief, $576 million to support services to students with disabilities, and release $1.5 billion in facility bonds.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Newsom also promised to be careful with spending overall given the economic uncertainties facing the state and the nation.

“This Budget lays a strong financial foundation for our state by eliminating debts, expanding the rainy-day fund and paying down our unfunded liabilities,” he said.

If adopted by legislative leaders, Newsom’s budget would add to the state’s rainy day fund with the goal of reaching $20 billion in reserve over the next four years. There is also $4 billion earmarked to eliminate all remaining state debts that had been transferred from special funds during the recession.

Newsome would also create some new programs:

  • $1 billion to give low-income families with young children a tax credit;
  • $1.3 billion to support housing development and address the state's affordability crisis; and
  • $500 million for child care programs, including education grants to improve the child care workforce.

No doubt, school administrators and local board members will applaud the governor’s plan to help with the escalating cost of employee retirement. 

Of the $3 billion proposed, $700 million would go to buy down the employer contribution rates in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The governor’s office estimates that if adopted, this funding would decrease employer contributions rates from 18.13 percent to 17.1 percent in 2019-20 and from 19.1 percent to 18.1 percent in 2020-21.

The remaining $2.3 billion would go for the long-term unfunded liabilities districts face. The administration estimates that this payment would be about $6.9 billion over the next three decades.

In fulfillment of a campaign pledge, the governor would also provide $750 million for full-day kindergarten. Another $125 million would be used to open up enough slots in the state’s preschool programs so that all eligible four-year-olds could participate.

The state’s school data system would also benefit from Newsom’s plan. To correct a long-standing flaw that prevents various agency collection sites from communicating, the governor would provide $10 million.

He also said he envisions a new system that would connect student data from kindergarten through higher education institutions.

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