Brown uses red ink to veto ed bills

Brown uses red ink to veto ed bills

(Calif.) While Gov. Jerry Brown applied his signature to scores of bills impacting K-12 schools this fall, he also used the power of the veto to send others back—among them, a grant program aimed at improving reading skills among third graders.

Brown also punched out a proposal to increase the number of bilingual teachers, as well as a plan to increase funding to county offices for home-to-school transportation.

This year, Brown signed 859 bills and rejected just 118. Since coming back for his second turn running California government, Brown has famously exercised fiscal restraint on lawmakers, but he has also carefully guided policy too, and lawmakers do not often push forward with bills without some signal from the governor’s office that they have his support.

SB 494 by state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is interesting because the author was attempting to address a critical need—early learner literacy—but made state spending for a new grant contingent on a budget appropriation that had been estimated to be about $10 million.

Local educational agencies would have been eligible to apply for the grant if less than half of their students in the 4th grade scored in the bottom level of reading on the state standardized tests. Districts could have used to money to hire reading specialists or other programs to encourage reading skills.

The bill passed out of both houses of the Legislature along party lines, but Brown sided with opponents. In his veto message, the governor simply said that LEAs already have flexibility within the Local Control Funding Formula to provide support to struggling students.

Also popular among lawmakers was AB 952 by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino, which sought to identify short-term, high-quality pathways to close a shortage of bilingual teachers.

According to the author’s office, there are today only 30 teacher preparation programs in the state that offer bilingual authorization training—compared to more than 80 that existed prior to 2009.

AB 952 was approved without dissent in the Assembly and with just two votes opposed in the Senate. But Brown returned the bill without his signature, saying it wasn’t needed.

“California recently provided funds to support teachers and paraprofessionals interested in becoming bilingual teachers,” Brown said in his veto message. This past spring the (state) awarded one-time grants to higher education institutions that sought to create or improve four-year integrated teacher education programs, including for bilingual teachers.

“Before making additional investments on this matter I believe it's wise to first assess the success of our current programs,” he said.

Finally, Brown also vetoed SB 527, by state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, which would have tied state support of school transportation services to a key economic indicator, the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Purchases of Goods and Services for the United States.

The measure was another one that had wide support in the Legislature, in fact, no lawmaker opposed the bill in either the Assembly or the Senate. State funding for home-to-school transportation needs, typically limited to students with disabilities, has been frozen since the early 1980s. A 2014 report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst found that schools spent more than $1.4 billion on transportation services but received less than $500 million from the state.

But once again, Brown said schools already have the ability to use some of their existing funds to improve services.

“While I recognize the increasing call on local resources for competing priorities and the importance of providing student transportation, the Local Control Funding Formula provides local schools and county offices of education with substantial flexibility and autonomy to implement and augment programs that meet the educational needs of their students and local communities,” Brown said.