Brown’s revised budget helps teacher shortage, emergency repairs

Brown’s revised budget helps teacher shortage, emergency repairs

(Calif.) Acknowledging a growing teacher shortage that is putting education gains at risk, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed Friday a $10 million package of tuition support and other incentives aimed at attracting young people into the profession.

As part of his long-awaited revised budget plan, the governor also once again withheld support for a statewide bond to help with school construction and repair costs, but offered a $100 million loan program for health and safety improvements.

The governor, becoming renowned for his tight-fisted spending policies, referenced the need to be cautious in the face of economic uncertainties.

“Our reserves are not adequate,” Brown said during the press conference at the Capitol. “But at least it will minimize the cuts to all the programs that people want to spend more money on now, and what I’m trying to do is to protect those programs in the event of the next recession, which is coming.”

Despite a surprise dip in April revenue collections, the overall budget for K-12 schools remains rosy. If the governor’s plan is adopted as proposed, per pupil spending will have increased by more than $3,600 over the spending provided during the nadirs of the recession.

The minimum funding guarantee of $71.9 billion for 2016-17 represents a 52 percent increase over the past five years. His plan would also bring the state to within 4 percent of the commitment made four years ago with the creation of the Local Control Funding Formula.

Even before news broke of April’s slip in personal income tax revenue, the administration had signaled to schools that there would not be a lot of additional spending proposed for new programs or services. Brown did, however, provide new details for an early learner initiative that he proposed in January.

The plan consolidates a number of existing resources to form a $1.6 billion Early Education Block Grant, which will align academic priorities between pre-kindergarten programs and local school districts.

According to the implementation plan:

•        School districts, county offices of education, families, teachers and community stakeholders will work to develop a regional early learning plan in order to align pre-kindergarten and K-12 programs; and

•        County offices of education and school districts with early education programs can aid school districts that lack the infrastructure to operate such programs with technical support.

Preparation for program implementation should begin in 2017-18.

Brown also wants to respond to the troubling trend within the teacher employment sector – characterized as the position losing status among young people enough so that shortages are visible in many communities.

As a number of bills are pending in the Legislature to address the problem, Brown proposed a $10 million General Fund one time investment for grants to California postsecondary institutions to improve upon or develop four-year integrated teacher credential programs. Grants of up to $250,000 would provide postsecondary institutions with funding to improve existing or create new integrated programs.

Preference would be given to proposals that include partnerships with local community colleges and K-12 local educational agencies. The competitive grant program would be administered by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, with the funds primarily provided for release time for faculty, creation of courses, summer scholarships for students, and program coordinators. Both public and private universities would be eligible to compete for the grants.

Brown’s $100 million loan program for facility needs would be administered as a boost to the district emergency repair program. Under the May Revision, school districts facing imminent and critical health and safety facility issues can receive temporary funding through a one-time, bridge loan program.

The governor’s proposal comes as builders and school groups have already qualified a $9 billion facilities bond for the November ballot – debt that Brown has warned against taking on. But with state support for school construction nearly depleted, expectations are that the entire cost of new schools will fall on local developers.

Other adjustments in Brown’s May revision include:

•             Higher property tax revenues will offset a $211.3 million decrease in Prop 98 General Funds for school districts in 2016-17;

•             Under LCFF, Average Daily Attendance will increase $11.2 million in 2016-16 and decrease $2 million in 2016-17 due to an increase in ADA in 20145-15;

•             Based on projected ADA growth estimates, select categorical programs will face a decrease of $5.7 million under the Prop 98 General Fund; and

•             Assuming 100 percent participation, the K-12 Mandated Programs Block Grant will receive an additional $131,000.

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