by Claudia Briggs
Good news gives us hope for a healthy future
On Jan. 9 Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report card, which looks at various factors and grades the states accordingly. It should come as no surprise that after years of devastating cuts to our schools, California was nearly at rock bottom. Yes. You read it right. The state ranked 50th in per-pupil spending, out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. That is how bad things had gotten right here in our state.
You see, Ed Week’s report card used data from 2010-11, the most recent available, to determine the ranking. According to the report, California spends $3,500 less per student than the national average and $11,000 less per child than the top-ranked state of Wyoming. Had we not worked hard to pass Proposition 30 last fall, and if we didn’t have a governor truly committed to providing an equitable quality public education for our students, we would be headed for complete devastation.
The next day, Jan. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed annual budget. He announced the state’s revenues are much higher than projected, the state’s debt was being slashed, and our schools and colleges would see an additional $10 billion in much-needed funding, including $6 billion to eliminate all deferral payments to school districts and colleges, plus $244 million for CSU and UC.
The average increase for K-12 school districts will be 10.9 percent. Only once in the past 30 years has public education received an increase of more than 10 percent.
“California teachers appreciate the governor’s continued commitment to public education and to repaying the billions of dollars that had been cut from students, schools and colleges,” says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “Governor Brown’s proposal will help our public schools and colleges continue to heal after years of devastating cuts. As we heal our schools, we heal our communities. This budget will allow local school districts to continue to restore critical programs and provide the resources that educators need to help students learn.”
You may be wondering what this means for you. Well, it means a lot.
It means that through the newly adopted Local Control Funding Formula, for which regulations were recently adopted by the State Board of Education, districts will be getting more money to work with. And those with students who need more resources to educate such as English learners, students living in poverty, and foster children get additional funding through supplemental and concentration grants.
It also means that decisions about how this money will be spent will be made locally and with your input. It’s now up to educators, school districts, parents and communities to weigh in on what’s most important for students and how exactly to make sure they get what they need.
CTA’s budget specialists will continue their analysis of the budget, and your State Council members will have many conversations in the weeks and months ahead on all proposed legislation.
“CTA continues to review the details of the governor’s budget plan, including a rainy-day fund proposal, and the impact it will have on school funding,” says Vogel. “We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature on this state budget, as well as a plan to address the CalSTRS shortfall. Making sure educators have a secure retirement is critical to attracting and keeping quality educators in the profession. The state must ensure the retirement commitments made to our hard-working teachers.”
Our work is cut out for us. It’s a critical time to be aware, informed and active as important decisions are made. The tide will start to turn with the increase in education funding, and our schools and communities will start to heal. Students will be able to focus on their success in school. Educators will focus on student success. But we must be vigilant and ready to fight for what’s right.
In future editions of the California Educator, we will look more closely at the CalSTRS unfunded liability, which has been recently grabbing headlines.
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