Panel offers $1.2b for Common Core, mandate money too

Panel offers $1.2b for Common Core, mandate money too

(Calif.) Looking to capture for schools a big chunk of unanticipated state revenue this year and next, a key legislative panel approved Thursday $1.25 billion in one-time grants to help with the transition to Common Core State Standards.

The Assembly’s budget subcommittee on education finance is also recommending that the state use $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."

While the action of the subcommittee is not binding, it nonetheless signals significant interest – at least among the Assembly’s Democratic majority – to use some of the budget surplus on public schools.

Their counterparts in the state Senate appear to be more interested in using some of the same money to restore cuts to health and welfare programs, although Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg continues to push for his universal pre-school program.

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 Muratsuchi, 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 tec 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.
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