Panels OK $1.2b for Common Core, pre-K expansion

Panels OK $1.2b for Common Core, pre-K expansion

(Calif.) Key legislative panels approved Thursday $1.25 billion for helping schools transition to the Common Core State Standards and another $650 million to support expanding pre-kindergarten to all low-income four-year olds.

The actions, taken separately by budget subcommittees in both houses of the Legislature, are not binding but suggest that Democratic leaders are interested in spending a big share of the state’s unanticipated revenue on public school programs.

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said his long-held plan to provide early-learning opportunities to all four-year-olds in California may have posed too big a financial commitment and instead offered a plan directed at the most needy.

“Our proposal has enough resources to assure a  100 percent eligibility for all low-income kids to have a full-day pre-kindergarten when at least one parent works,” Steinberg told members of the Senate’s subcommittee on education finance.

“And if at least one doesn’t work, we can guarantee a half day for all low-income, 4-year-olds,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, the Assembly’s budget subcommittee on education finance recommended a second $1.25 billion for Common Core expenses similar to what was provided this year.

The Assembly panel also approved $384 million to reestablish Regional Occupational Centers and another $313 million to pay down the backlog of K-14 education mandates.

Members would also increase support for schools under the Local Control Funding Formula by $153 million above the administration’s proposed $4.5 billion.

“As California moves forward with Common Core, I want to make sure that our schools have the necessary resources to successfully make this transition,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance and chair of the budget panel. "And as a former SoCal ROC trustee, I am fighting to save successful career technical education programs that educate and train our kids today for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Gov. Jerry Brown released a reasonably austere May budget revision last week that accommodated growth in the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee for schools from an adjusted $57.8 billion in 2012-13 to $60.9 billion in 2014-15.

The governor proposes using most of the anticipated revenue – which the administration estimates at $2.4 billion – to pay off school deferrals, shore up the teacher retirement system and set aside a rainy day fund.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, however, has since suggested that state revenues will grow faster than the governor’s estimates – as much as $2.5 billion more.

A key action by the Assembly subcommittee Thursday was to adopt the LAO’s revenue projections as a starting point for building next year’s budget.

A spokesman for the governor’s Department of Finance warned lawmakers last week that the bulk of the additional money identified by the LAO would come from “volatile capital gains and is therefore temporary.”

The big news for schools is the proposed support for Common Core – a massive shift in educational goals that requires not only new instructional materials but also additional teacher training and improved technology resources.

The $1.25 billion was described as one-time grant money in a staff report to the subcommittee.

The LAO has estimated that the state owes $4.5 billion in outstanding mandate claims, which the governor has proposed to carryover until next year. Instead he wants to pay off the state’s $6.2 billion obligation for past payment deferrals in 2014-15. Brown has suggested he would pay the mandate claims off next year.

Under the subcommittee’s plan, $34 million of the mandate money would go to community colleges with the remaining $279 million to be used for K-12 reimbursements.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance and chair of the budget panel, has made career technical education a funding priority as his district is home to one of the state’s biggest regional occupational centers.

Under the new funding formula, the $400 million that the Legislature historically has set aside for career tech was absorbed into the LCFF.

Under the plan approved by the panel Thursday, the $384 million to continue funding for regional occupational centers and programs would be established outside the LCFF as a standalone categorical.

Other education highlights from the subcommittee’s action:

  • Provides $205 million for the State Preschool Program in order to provide 20,000 new preschool slots, increase preschool provider rates by 10 percent, and eliminate preschool family fees.
  • Allocates $28 million in Proposition 39 funds for the Energy Conservation Assistance Act revolving loan program for schools and community colleges for energy projects.
  • Dedicates $4.9 million for the Specialized Secondary Programs and $4.1 million for the Agricultural Education Incentive Grants outside of the LCFF.
  • Provides a 0.85 percent COLA for categorical programs outside the LCFF, including Foster Youth Services, American Indian Centers, American Indian Early Childhood Education, Special Education, and Child Nutrition, consistent with the governor's budget.