Ed. Coalition seeks more money for schools

Ed. Coalition seeks more money for schools

(Calif.) The powerful if not also tenuous alliance of school employees and district management have called on lawmakers to improve on Gov. Jerry Brown’s education budget that would still leave per-student spending near the bottom nationally.

The Education Coalition, which includes the California Teachers Association as well as the association of California School Administrators and the California School Boards Association, in general supports the governor’s budget plan that will provide $4.6 billion more to schools next year than in 2017.

But, in a position paper shared with Legislative leaders last week, the coalition said steps need to be taken now to plan for increasing the base funding targets of the Local Control Funding Formula are met in 2018-19.

“While this funding is greatly appreciated and a step in the right direction, this still does not solve the problem of our state’s historically underfunded public education system,” the members wrote in the Feb. 20 memo.

They pointed out that California ranked 43rd in adjusted per-pupil expenditures for K-12 education, according to a survey conducted by Education Week, with per-student spending of $9,417, which is $3,109 below the national average of $12,526.

“Given that one of the goals of the constitutional initiative is to narrow the gap in per pupil funding to the average of the top ten states, California still has a long way to go in school finance,” the coalition said.

A long-standing political lobby in Sacramento, the coalition generally focuses on big picture budget issues that both teachers and administrators can champion—even though the two sides are often simultaneously at loggerheads on a variety of other issues.

A clear concern this year is the manner in which the Proposition 98 guarantee is being implemented and tinkering that the Legislature and the governor occasionally undertake.

Last summer, the coalition pointed out, the budget trailer bill imposed a “predetermined cut to education” by eliminating a supplemental payment due schools under certain economic conditions through 2020-21.

“The statute arbitrarily and prematurely pre-approved cuts to the K-14 education budget without justifications that the cuts were needed in future years,” they wrote. “This was a pre-emptive action when there is no certainty that there will be a budget deficit or that revenues will be insufficient to fund the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee in the out years.”

The coalition is also opposed to a plan deduct $222 million from the Proposition 98 money to resolve a dispute with the federal government over Medi-Cal billing by some school districts.

As many of the school groups have already requested, the Education Coalition wants the governor to speed up allocation of the $7 billion facilities bond approved by voters in 2016.

Brown has proposed giving schools $640 million to fund new school construction and modernization projects next year.

“We urge that the funds be sent out as quickly as possible and that additional funds be allocated to reduce the backlog of projects,” the coalition said. “We further recommend providing a schedule on when and how much in bond funds will be made available in future years.”

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